Forward Recovery Centre in Parksville reports it already has 160 regular coaching clients, nine months after opening its doors.
The centre originally started as a pilot program to provide recovery coaching, substance use navigation support and weekly group meetings back in September 2020, according to Sareh Tracey, Addiction Recovery Services program director.
The pilot program was successful, so the recovery centre opened at 129 Alberni Hwy. in June 2022.
A community needs assessment identified large gaps in community and medical support, Tracey said. She pointed to a lack of treatment centres, detox centres and second stage housing, along with few stabilization beds, no GPs taking clients and one “overwhelmed” addictions physician covering the area from Parksville to Port Hardy.
People in need of help can still turn to community supports like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous and Smart Recovery, but most inquiries have been from people not open to attending 12-step meetings.
“What we’re finding is they’re overwhelmed,” Tracey said. “They’re having clients that have psychiatric needs, mental health needs. They’re not able to support them like they used to, and because there’s no formal supports, they’re still struggling.”
Of the 160 regular clients, 80 per cent are female and 20 per cent are male, according to Forward Recovery Centre. Three quarters of those people identified as having a substance use problem, with 20 per cent accessing the centre for a family member.
Seventy per cent said alcohol was the primary substance of abuse, Tracey said.
“Only 25 per cent was cocaine, opioids, benzos, prescription drugs and marijuana,” she said. “The other thing I noticed is we’re getting a lot more younger people — 20, 21, 22, with primarily marijuana addictions.”
Tracey added that most of the recovery centre’s clients have vehicles, jobs and homes. Twenty-five per cent are retired or on long-term disability — isolation was identified as the most common barrier to recovery.
Since it opened, the centre has recorded 829 client connections and 134 inquiries or crisis support, where someone needed direction, referral, or access to services. There are 297 people attending four groups: disordered eating and body image, a 12-step study group, a women’s recovery group and a family support group. Forward Recovery Centre has also recorded 258 hours of one-on-one recovery coaching hours.
Gord Johns, MP for Courtenay-Alberni, said more funding is needed for treatment of mental health and addictions. He said mental health and physical health need parity in the healthcare system.
“With our so-called universal healthcare system, that is obviously under attack right now and being fragmented,” he said. “Mental health and physical health need parity, so that’s what we’re pushing for. We want legislation from the government to create that parity.”
Johns said the costs are “enormous” on the healthcare system, policing and the justice system.
People are referred to the centre from Society of Organized Services (SOS), Island Crisis Centre (ICC), Island Health’s mental health and substance use team, the Ministry of Children and Family Development and Nanaimo Correctional Centre.
“We are getting referrals left, right and centre,” Tracey said. “One of the reasons is I think we’re doing good programming, the other is there’s not a lot of services in this community to send people to.”
Resources most requested by clients include: more groups, more community events, male recovery coaches, substance use counsellors, trauma therapists, educational workshops and intensive outpatient programs.
Tracey added that many clients say they want to be able to give back to the community.
Forward Recovery Centre’s mission is to provide all pathways of recovery and community supports to people experiencing substance misuse challenges and their families. Clients create their own recovery goals with free, minimal-barrier non-judgmental support from the recovery centre.
In-person appointments can be made within 24 to 72 hours based on client needs. They can also be done over the phone and by using Zoom.