Apr 8, 2009

Docs call for more attention to addiction


The BC Medical Association released an important report at the end of March. The Vancouver Sun gave it good coverage, but overall it didn’t get the attention it deserved. Stepping Forward: Improving Addiction Care in BC raises a lot of issues worth talking about in an election.

The report estimates there are 400,000 British Columbians with some kind of addiction problem. The annual financial impact is $6 billion.

The BCMA says the burden falls mainly on addicts and their families, but it also falls on law enforcement, emergency wards and workplaces. The doctors call for changes in the way we look at addiction and they call “on the premier and the Minister of Health to formally recognize addiction as a chronic disease and increase resources for addiction treatment…”

Among the many issues addressed, the BCMA recommends the creation of “240 new flexible medically supported detoxification spaces across BC by 2012.” It quotes Health Authorities on the weakness of the current system. The Vancouver Coastal Health Authority makes the following comment:

While the intake system for detoxification facilities has been significantly streamlined in recent years, immediate access to withdrawal management services is still an unmet need among highly marginalized individuals, many of whom are homeless and have no safe place in which to wait for access to services. The result of missing or insufficient services is people not receiving treatment, inappropriately accessing emergency care, or staying for extended periods in more costly acute care.

The BCMA reports, “The number of people in BC with a severe gambling problem has increased since 2002 from 0.4% of the population to 0.9% in 2007.” Another 128,000 people have a moderate gambling problem.

On housing, the report says, “The current lack of appropriate housing programs for the range of addiction and mental health problems in BC undermines the effectiveness of and the ability to provide medical care and treatment.”

Responding to the report in the Sun, the Health Minister said while he agreed with the direction taken by the BCMA in these tough economic times the province is hoping to maximize the benefits of its health care dollars.

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