An out-patient clinic is opening this fall in Chilliwack General Hospital to provide Suboxone and methadone treatments for those struggling with opioid addiction.
Coun. Ken Popove, who chairs the Housing First subcommittee of Chilliwack Healthier Community, said the new initiative was “clear recognition” of the urgent need to address opioid-related crisis in Chilliwack.
“I am cautiously optimistic about this,” Popove said. “I am a full supporter of harm reduction and the science behind it, so if this helps people get on the road to getting better, I’m for it.”
Statistically, Chilliwack is sixth of seven Fraser Health communities in terms of recent overdose deaths. It was 11th of 14 across B.C. with the highest number of deaths due to illicit drug overdoses, according to the June data from BC Coroners Service, the most recent numbers available.
The announcement by Fraser Health, about the new out-patient clinic in CGH, and the eight others across the region, was delivered on Thursday, International Overdose Day .
Coun. Popove said he hopes the new clinic will quickly “start helping people who actually want help” when they are ready to access it. But he says Chilliwack still needs a fully-funded Intensive Case Management (ICM) team.
The new clinic will be opening within CGH, complementing existing services in the same corridor as the Riverstone Clinic, which offers daytox, and mobile medical detox services.
Dr. Victoria Lee, chief medical officer for Fraser Health, said when Chilliwack made the BC Coroners’ list of 14 cities with the highest number of OD deaths province-wide, it was decided it would be included in the expansion of treatment services they are rolling out region-wide.
Chilliwack’s new clinic will be one of nine opening in September and October, along with those in Surrey, Burnaby, Maple Ridge, Abbotsford, Mission, and Langley.
But there is an area of confusion Dr. Lee wants to clear up for the public. Critics always frame the problem as a need for more “detox beds” when discussing addiction treatment.
But there is more to it, the health official said.
“It is absolutely important to emphasize that for opioid use disorder (OUD) the first-line treatments, meaning the most highly recommended, are Suboxone or methadone.”
She went further, adding the science shows that detoxing without these medications “increases a patient’s risk of death, or elevated rates of relapse” and other health conditions like HIV infection.
Also, according research by the B.C. Centre for Substance Use, most with OUD should be offered community-based, out-patient treatment as opposed to “rapid in-patient treatment.”
So while it may seem counterintuitive to some, since most people think of treatment “beds” specifically as the ultimate solution to people getting their lives back on track.
“But the recommendations are clear that this does not work on its own.”
Suboxone, is a combination of buprenorphine and naloxone, in tablet form. Suboxone acts in much the same way as methadone, a synthetic opioid that blocks opioid receptors, but produces even less of a high. Methadone and Suboxone are both classified in the opioid family of drugs used to manage opioid dependence.