Pre-treatment programs for addiction support in Calgary get $1.8M

The funding has been put in place to help people between detox and treatment, which the minister of mental health and addictions described as “the most vulnerable” period of recovery

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The Alberta government is investing $1.8 million over three years in Oxford House’s addiction pre-treatment program in Calgary.

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Oxford House provides people recovering from addiction with a safe home and supportive program. The additional funding is meant to create another 240 recovery spaces annually, Mental Health and Addiction Minister Nicholas Milliken announced Friday.

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The pre-treatment program receiving the funds is geared to address the gap that exists between detox and treatment.

“These spaces will be in houses much like this, helping up to 240 Albertans in their pursuit of recovery every single year,” Milliken said at a news conference at the Red Woman Indigenous Women’s Healing Home in Calgary.

“Oxford House has helped countless Albertans recover from addiction and regain their lives. They’re also a pioneer when it comes to pre-treatment programs. And for many people pursuing recovery from addiction, pre-treatment support will be critical.”

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Jennifer, an alumnus of the Oxford House program, told reporters she was fortunate to move into one of the Oxford homes after completing treatment for substance abuse. Now, she’s a recovery support worker as the house lead at the women’s pre-treatment home.

“I didn’t realize that I would be moving into a regular house — a home — in a regular neighbourhood. In that home, I became close friends with a woman who also lived there. Today, I call her my sister,” said Jennifer.

“I would not be where I am today without the lessons I learned while living in an Oxford House.”

Recently opened beds already close to capacity: Milliken

The pre-treatment spaces are free for Albertans and are available to people who are seven days sober with a scheduled treatment date. A more senior resident also works to help clients understand their treatment and recovery options.

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“The time right after detox and before entering treatment is one of the most vulnerable times in someone’s recovery,” said Milliken. “It helps people develop skills to prevent relapse while they get ready for treatment.”

Milliken said recently opened beds are already nearly full.

Earl Thiessen, executive director of the Oxford House Foundation, said the provincial investment helps with a vital piece of the continuum of care for those seeking recovery.

“This funding will open the door for 20 pre-treatment beds for men and women in our province, which translates annually to roughly 240 spaces for people on wait lists for residential treatment,” said Thiessen.

“This is 240 people that would otherwise be left without support after making the tough decision to put themselves through a detox and treatment.”

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Announcement arrives after release of sobering drug poisoning death numbers

The funding boost comes only a few days after provincial data showed that more than 1,000 Albertans died of drug poisoning in 2022. The province has released data up to November 2022, which saw the total number of opioid-related fatalities for the year reach 1,346 with one month left.

According to the data, there were 817 hospitalizations related to substance use in the third quarter of 2022. This was a decrease from the 1,005 reported in the second quarter.

Provided through the government’s Medical Detoxification and Residential Addiction Treatment Expansion grant, the additional $1.8 million over three years to Oxford House is part of a $140-million investment over four years.

Albertans can be connected to local addiction services by calling 211 Alberta anytime. As well, the Virtual Opioid Dependency Program can be reached at 1-844-383-7688 between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. daily.


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