Sudbury mother calls for more supports as addiction waitlists grow | CBC News

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Nora Carnegie (left) of Sudbury is trying to get her daughter into a publicly-funded addictions treatment program since March 2020, but is still waiting for space in a concurrent disorders program. (Supplied by Nora Carnegie)

The pandemic has led to increases for waiting lists at publicly-funded addictions treatment programs in the Sudbury, Ont., area, despite relatively steady numbers of people seeking help.

The growth stems from capacity restrictions, says Roxane Zuck, CEO of Monarch Recovery Services. 

The facility provides addiction recovery services for people aged 16 and older.

Both of the live-in treatment programs at Monarch Recovery have lost space due to capacity limits, and the need for physical separation during the first two weeks of the program.

“We had to modify our programs, so our outreach programs, most of them are being done virtually now,” Zuck says.

The live-in program for women normally has room for 14 people, but is now operating at ten per session. The men’s program is operating at 14 beds, down from 18.

For the women’s program, the average number of days on the waiting list has risen to 64 in 2021, up about 50 per cent from 41 days in 2020.

Zuck says she’s waiting to see what will happen when pandemic restrictions ease.

“I don’t know if there’s going to be more people looking for services once everything starts opening up again … so it’s hard to say,” she says.

Specialized services carry longer wait

Nora Carnegie of Sudbury is advocating for her daughter, who is living with a fentanyl addiction. She has been trying to get into publicly-funded treatment programs since the spring of 2020 but is still waiting for a space in a concurrent disorders program.

Concurrent disorders refers to when a patient has both a substance-use disorder and mental illness. Carnegie estimates that such programs have a waiting list of up to two years.

One of her daughter’s challenges is severe parasomnia, a condition that causes her to awaken frequently during the night, screaming and cursing. She’s had to leave previous live-in treatment programs because of it.

“It’s very loud, it’s very disruptive, and that really didn’t work out at that centre. And that’s one of the reasons for the concurrent programs…they’re more prepared to handle that,” Carnegie says.

Wait lists are longer at concurrent programs because of their specialized nature, but Carnegie says there are a growing number of alternative options.

Virtual treatment programs may have promise

Carnegie is presently running a crowdfunding campaign to cover the costs of her daughter entering a private, virtual addictions treatment program. Carnegie is living with terminal cancer, and is raising her grandson, which she says is why she can’t otherwise cover the nearly $9,000 cost of the virtual option for her daughter.

Many live-in programs involve traveling away from one’s home community to avoid social triggers that may lead a person to use drugs again. Once the program is over, however, the patient returns to that environment.

The presence of after-care and regular check-ins varies between programs, but many people who have undergone treatment say they don’t offer enough support to prevent relapses.

A virtual program takes place within that same environment full of triggers, which may help create more resilience. The privately-funded service Carnegie is trying to access also offers up to two years of after-care to ensure her daughter doesn’t relapse.

It also means she can stay at home, where her parasomnia will not impact the other patients.

Changes badly needed now, Carnegie says

Carnegie says she’s heard of quickly-worsening drug toxicity since the start of COVID-19. Her daughter has overdosed twice since early 2020, but medical teams have kept her alive.

Her daughter is getting help through Monarch Recovery Services’ addiction supportive housing program, which helps to subsidize rent and provides access to a care worker.

However, it’s far below the amount of support she needs to thrive. Carnegie says with needs growing during the pandemic, there needs to be more support to help people recover and re-integrate into the world.

She says there should be a stronger focus on mental health and prevention programs to reduce and prevent widespread addictions crises. 

“People are looking for help, and it doesn’t come. By the time there’s any intervention, it’s the police; it’s become a criminal matter,” Carnegie says.

She says addictions impact everyone, either directly or indirectly.

Morning North11:09Pandemic restrictions have made it more difficult to access addiction treatment

The pandemic has added additional pressures for people trying to access addiction treatment. We spoke with a woman in Sudbury who shared her experience trying to get her daughter into a program. 11:09

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