After 20 years in the community, Pathways Addiction Recovery Centre has had its funding cut by Interior Health, who says they are bringing addictions services in-house now. (Facebook)

After 20 years in the community, Pathways Addiction Recovery Centre has had its funding cut by Interior Health, who says they are bringing addictions services in-house now. (Facebook)

OPINION: Pathways responds to Interior Health’s statements

“Community-based treatment is the cornerstone of serving a vulnerable population.”

In response to Susan Brown, President and CEO of Interior Health

READ MORE: OPINION: Interior Health CEO responds to why they defunded Pathways

Pathways is here to set the record straight.

In previous media releases, IH has stated publicly that the move to repatriate the contracts from Pathways was part of a larger plan throughout the province and not due to any lack of services that Pathways has provided. Carl Meadows made it clear that Pathways has done great work over the years and others in IH have thanked Pathways for their service. The Minister of Mental Health and Substance Use has also thanked Pathways in the legislature for their service. But now that public opinion has been growing in favour of Pathways and the public is rallying to save Pathways from closure, IH decides to take a different stance by spreading misinformation about Pathways and the services it has provided the public for over 45 years. I believe the dictionary defines this as PRIMAL behaviour: Often times resorting to impulse instead of reason in extremely emotional situations.

Pathways is here to set the record straight.

It is true Pathways provides open intake on Tuesday afternoons. During this time, we have three counsellors available for intake and the process is very smooth. Clients fill out paperwork, are seen by a counsellor, and a basic plan is established. During the rest of the week, Pathways provides intake for anyone who cannot make the Tuesday afternoon or for clients who are in crisis. Clients can fill out the paperwork and been seen by a counsellor when they walk in the door. Pregnant women and youth are connected immediately to a counsellor when they call or walk in the door, they are not put on waitlist. Pathways has an extensive client management filing system, maybe because it not connected to Interior Health’s they just say we do not have one.

Is this the reason Susan Brown stated “A challenge with the Pathways contract was the inability to track client progression and know whether people might be falling through the cracks. By bringing these counselling services in- house, we can follow up with people more effectively, find out what they need, and ensure people get all of the right supports and health services”? No one’s file at Pathways is connected to the government. Substance use and addiction treatment is grass roots and needs to be kept in the community. The stigma attached to it is enormous, with IH taking over, files become government property.

Pathways has been in the community providing substance use and addictions services for 47 years throughout the entire South Okanagan to Princeton and up to Peachland. The staff have extensive knowledge in the continuum of care that is involved in substance use and addictions and that is a skill not learned by obtaining a Masters of Counselling or a nursing degree. They are taking back the Pathways counselling contracts to hire maybe two counsellors. The counsellors at Pathways make less than $30.00 an hour. A counsellor at IH will make upwards of $50.00. So the contracts they are taking back will never replace all the services that Pathways provides the citizens of Penticton.

Pathways has drop-in intake. Interior Health stated they will not be providing Drop-In service and people have to call in and make an appointment. How is this meeting people where they are at? When someone needs help they want help today, now not three weeks or six weeks from now. Pathways receives calls from all over the Interior Health Authority’s area (Kamloops, Kelowna, Nelson etc.) asking if we can refer them to inpatient treatment, start seeing a counsellor because the wait list through IH in those areas is up to six months. Six months. Pathways counsellors will go to the hospital, the psych ward, the homeless shelter, supportive housing etc. when called to intake clients.

Although substance use and addictions is a medical issue it cannot be treated using the medical model that Interior Health intends to provide. It is not a broken leg that will heal in six weeks, or a sore throat that a round of antibiotics will cure in 10 days. Substance use and addictions is life long. Many of our clients who have accessed service years ago will often need to access service again as the struggle is always present. To be able to call the same place, speak to a familiar counsellor who worked with you in the beginning, brings comfort to those who struggle. It may only be the one phone call or session to get back on track but it was a comforting session. They did not have to tell their story to a stranger all over again. They talk “Trauma-Informed” but that is NOT “Trauma Counselling” which is so vital in all the work we do.

IH has informed Pathways in a FAQ sheet that the following are places people can access service: “The Foundry, Penticton Health Centre, PRH Psychiatry and Martin Street”. Where will the business person go when they need help? Into a government building, the Foundry, Martin Street Outreach or the Psych Ward? Where will the government employee go when they need help? Into another government agency, Martin Street Outreach or the psych ward?

What about the mother that drinks 2 bottles of wine a day? She is not walking into the Health Centre in a small community for everyone to see. She is NOT walking into the same building where she takes her kids to get their immunizations. But that is where she will have to go if she wants help and if she can access help. She is not the emergency opioid user so she may be on a long wait list. They will know her by name, most likely, it’s a small town. The receptionist at the front will ask her how her kids are, she will go up to the 3rd floor and then everyone will know, it’s the 3rd floor. IH supplied Pathways with an FAQ sheet which states: “What happens after I call?” Someone will speak with you briefly to determine your needs. An appointment time may be provided or you will be transferred directly to the access team for further assessment. A clinician will connect with you to complete an assessment. You may be assigned to an Interior Health service or referred to another program.” This mother will speak to several people before she even sees a counsellor, if she is “sick” enough to warrant an appointment. She will have to go through intake, then be assessed, then get connected to a counsellor, then maybe another counsellor because the first one is gone or on stress leave or as stated she may be referred to another program. She likely will just stay home and continue to drink.

Community-based treatment is the cornerstone of serving a vulnerable population. Does IH know how to match the person to the inpatient treatment centre? Are they aware of the multitude of treatment centres there are in BC and how a person qualified to get in? Do they know which ones take moms, which ones take people on methadone/suboxone, which ones take people using barbiturates, which ones take couples? It takes years of learning to know this. Right now IH relies on Pathways to provide this service.

We all talk about the opioid crisis but the majority of Pathways clients have alcohol use disorder. They are not going to be served by the outreach team, the overdose prevention site, the substance use connection team, Martin Street Outreach or the new Urgent Care Centre. These teams are set up for opioid use disorder to keep the stats of overdose down in our community. People using alcohol want a community based centre to go into discretely and receive service. Will they be deemed sick enough to be triaged for service? People using opioids can also walk into Pathways and be immediately connected to a Navigator. They don’t have to call, wait in line or be put on a wait list. We have had 120 people go through our Opioid Navigator program and not one has overdosed. All have been housed, many have returned to work and been reunited with their families due to the wrap-around service Pathways provides with all the other services in the community. 120 people. We are home to an Opioid Agonist physician who also calls clients when they are in distress evenings and weekends. We provide harm reduction supplies, teach naloxone training, and give hope to parents who children are using and are so afraid they may die. We do grief groups for people who have lost a loved one to an overdose, groups for people who are mandated to take anger management counselling, groups specific for working men and others for women. The list of what Pathways does, goes on and on as we are completely client centred.

IH has informed us that they will not be providing assessments for the Ministry of Children and Families so parents can work to get their children back. Who will be providing that? IH has informed us they will not be working with probation or the correctional facility to work with people who have committed a crime and need assessment and specialized services. Who will be providing that? Who will be working with employers to keep people on the job while they move through their treatment plan? Who will be doing assessments for people who get a DUI? Who will be providing the 1200 prevention education sessions the students in School District 67 receive on substance use? Who will be answering their phone to work with an opioid use disorder client at 10:00pm or on the weekend because they may relapse? What about the people who have been “Banned” from IH services? Oh and there are many. They reach out to Pathways for help and Pathways is there for them. Pathways serves these most vulnerable people and has never banned a person from obtaining service.

We have been told by IH “they need to track people when they come in, the number of sessions/service they receive and then when they get discharged”. Sounds like taking out someone’s appendix. This is a medical model, and this does not work with substance use and addictions. This is not how Pathways works.

Pathways has and always will be the cornerstone of addiction services in Penticton. The people of Penticton are speaking loud and clear!

Daryl Meyers

Executive Director Pathways

mental health