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Detox services expand in Vernon as options dwindle in North Okanagan

July 17, 2013 - 3:19 PM

VERNON - A new program is putting the road to recovery right here in Vernon for those battling alcohol addiction.

Annette Sharkey, executive director of the Social Planning Council, says there have never been adequate services in Vernon, and with the phasing out of detox and addiction counseling programs at Kelowna's Crossroads Treatment Centre, nearby options are dwindling. The closest detox centre now lies in Kamloops, and Sharkey says individuals wanting a spot there are often faced with wait-lists.

"For someone making the decision to detox, delays can be a real issue," she says.

Unable to access the support they need, alcoholics might relapse or try to detox on their own.

"We do have people in the community that are detoxing unsafely," Sharkey says. "They're making that choice but not understanding the risks. When someone goes into alcohol withdrawal, there's a risk of death if the right supports aren't in place."

A pilot program starting later this year will seek to improve detox services in Vernon. Interior Health and Vernon's street clinic are partnering up with supported housing agencies to offer individuals the resources they need to detox safely without having to uproot to a new city. The program will have a strict focus on working with alcoholics who have been medically cleared by a doctor.

"We have to know they aren't at a severe (health) risk. If they're considered high risk, they need 24 hour access to medical care," Sharkey says. "This pilot program is looking at people who are chronic alcoholics, but are at a lower risk."

The new service, modeled after a program in Cranbrook but "tweaked to fit Vernon" will be accomplished without any additional funding.

"The agencies involved are having to get creative to make it work, reallocating staff and resources," Sharkey says, adding it's been no easy feat coming up with a way to offer this without jeopardizing other services. "They're looking at the bigger picture and what people in the community need."

If the program is successful, Sharkey says there's the possibility of receiving government funding and expanding the service to those with drug addictions as well. But it's one step at a time.

"This has always been a gap in our community, and recently with the loss of Crossroads, we went from two nearby centres down to one," Sharkey says. "It's been on the radar for a long time."

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2013
InfoTel News Ltd

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