SUSN info session provides needed awareness 0
Sean Lee-Popham, Dr. Steven Griffin, Dr. Jeffrey Daiter and Inspector Tim Farquharson for the panel on opiate addiction treatment in Bancroft on June 6. BARBARA SHAW BANCROFT THIS WEEK
The expert panel pulled together by the Bancroft Substance Use Strategy Network politely proceeded with their presentations even though only a handful of community members showed-up for the event.
Billed as an evening to discuss and answer questions relating to opioid dependence, addiction, methadone treatment and policing issues, those who did show-up were rewarded with a valuable learning experience.
The panel included Sean Lee-Popham, a local nurse, Steven Griffin, a local physician, Dr. Jeff Daiter, a physician with the Ontario Addiction Centre and Tim Farquharson from the Peterborough Lakefield Community Police.
Offered as a way to connect community with a better understanding of the needs of the Bancroft and North Hastings community in regards to drug use and treatment, there was both good news and bad delivered by speakers.
Dr. Griffin says he and the local medical teams were painfully aware of the toll narcotics were taking on those in our community.
"It's a no-brainer that we need a methadone clinic in Bancroft," Griffin said. "I saw problems that shocked and surprised me in Bancroft. I've seen it as the coroner as well."
Opening a local clinic just made sense when so many needed medical treatment.
"We were looking for a local solution to a local problem that didn't exist before," Griffin said.
And now Bancroft has a new, full-time Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre on Hastings Street. The clinic is one of 45 clinics in rural communities across the province. The OATC employs 50 doctors and distributes oral observed administered doses of methadone.
Dr. Jeff Daiter is the physician for our local clinic and he explained that addiction is a brain disorder.
"This is a disease that we should treat with respect and to treat these people with respect," Daiter explained.
The addiction is destructive and by the time people look for help lives are in shambles.
Daiter explained that our local users are paying $40 for each oxcontin tablet on the street and many addicts need 10 a day to sustain their addiction.
"This is a motivational disorder," Daiter explained. "Right now we're seeing 95 per cent spent on incarceration and only five per cent spent on treatment."
Everyone in the small audience at the NHHS was shocked at the statistics including numbers like 300 deaths last year in Ontario from overdoses.
Daiter explained that the clinic in Bancroft has, right now, 30 clients but he expects the numbers to increase as many locals are receiving subsidised transportation so they can get treatment in Peterborough or other communities. The Bancroft clinic can accommodate around 200 clients who come in for the medications.
Clients coming to the clinic do not need a referral. If they are ready for help they can just walk in and start the intake process. Once they are a client they receive a dose of medication each day. There are urine tests and other controls in place to make sure that the clients are taking their medications and not taking other drugs.
Eventually counselling and group therapy will be available. Daiter says the clinic has opened on a rapid schedule so not everything is in place just yet.
Tim Farquharson, an inspector with the Peterborough Lakefield Community Police shared a chilling history of Peterborough's fight with drugs and the good decision to take on a harm reduction approach to the problem.
"Things can change in a hurry," the inspector said quietly. "The big flood in Peterborough is nothing compared to what drugs have done to Peterborough."
Farquharson said in 2000 things started to change.
"Oxy was another drug that was going to be 'non-addictive' but it resulted in a lot of problems in Peterborough."
By 2007 there were 20 deaths in Peterborough from the drug.
The sex trade exploded with workers needing cash for crack cocaine or narcotics and break and enters doubled.
With crack and oxy came weapons and Farquharson said he started to re-think his approach.
"It wasn't working- kicking in doors," he said. "We started reaching out to community agencies. We started thinking about harm reduction. We had to get to the root cause."
Farquharson says understanding harm reduction is hard for the police but the philosophy has changed.
"I thought I could make more change and they wanted to do all the sexy stuff but sitting down with the doctors in Peterborough did more than all those door kicks," he said. "We can get more work done with community partners."
Farquharson reports that as the problem increased, treatment centres finally arrived and he says they are doing really well.
"We have 1,050 people on the methadone program," he said as the audience took in the number. "I think that's fantastic and we're not having problems with any of them."
And that's the message that the evening was about.
People connect with addictive drugs for a wide array of reasons. They keep using for a wide array of reasons and while they are using there will be problems with work, family, relationships with community and eventually there is crime to pay for the addiction. Treatment breaks the cycle and it can stabilise users and let them get help.
"It has made us realise that it's any person- we don't know who will be addicted," he said. "And crime is not an issue around the clinics. With more than six months on the program we see a decrease in criminality."
Moving to a question period, some bad news was delivered to the audience.
When asked how long people need to be a part of a program the answer was not good news.
"This is a chronically relapsing disorder," Daiter said. "We want to retain this person in care."
So for those who get addicted to this drug, it will haunt them and if they stop their program, the likelihood that they will use again is very high.
"Methadone is the long term treatment," Daiter said.
With capacity questions asked, the concern is how the clinic will handle an influx of clients who might lose transportation to out of town clinics. With the new zoning by-law in place, no new treatment centres can be built in Bancroft for the next year.
"It was disheartening when this by-law was passed- there was no consultation with any doctors in Town," Dr. Griffin said. "You hopefully wouldn't limit the number of doctors in the community. This is a medical service."
In the audience, the only member of the Bancroft council, Deputy Mayor Wayne Wiggins responded saying that the Town reacted because they had not been consulted about the clinic.
"The biggest thing is the unknown," he said.
Both sides backing down, and talking for the first time, Wiggins said he wanted to learn as much as he could and that everyone did need to work together.
Moving to our local policing costs, even with no local OPP attending to hear the message, the panel confirmed that these clinics decrease criminality and this can save money.
The clinic also does have an involuntary discharge system.
"We can not have someone at the clinic who harms the outcome for others," Daiter explained.
Daiter's message is good news for those in fear of the clinic or those using the clinic. There is surveillance and all clients are registered. If there is an issue with a client they will lose access to their treatment at that clinic.
"Well, anything to ease the pressure [of policing] I support 100 per cent," Wiggins said.
With some brief discussion about the new alternative to oxycontin, oxyneo, Dr. Griffin explained that those people who are prone to addiction will just move to something else.
"Crack cocaine is a drug of choice and we may see heroin come back," Griffin said.
In closing, and trying to remain positive, Farquharson said, "working with our youth is a good way to go."
"This [clinic] is not blight on the community," he said.