David Marsden: Finally, help for our neighbours who suffer from addiction

Red Deer will finally be provided with an addiction treatment centre.

Soon, the region will have a comprehensive facility where those whose lives are overshadowed by substance dependency will get the help they need to prevail over a serious medical condition. It’s a scourge that often robs its victims of the joys of life, if not life itself.

Currently, those wanting support in dealing with the illness have to go away for treatment, leaving friends, family and their support networks behind.

It is an untenable situation that should never have been permitted to persist for so long.

Saturday, Premier Jason Kenney was in Red Deer to announce the first of what the government is calling recovery communities.

Newspaper writers usually bristle at euphemisms, but in this case, let’s hope the long overdue amenity truly is a community where our friends and neighbours are able to get well.

Gleaning best practices from more than 65 countries, the centres are said to focus on the entire individual and overall lifestyle changes, rather than abstinence from drug use alone.

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The price tag for the centre, which will have 75 beds and is expected to be located away from the downtown core, is $5 million.

That’s a lot of money to you and I, but on the very same weekend, the government announced the same sum for the early repair of some pipes, furnaces and boilers at Red Deer College.

The government also announced the spending of $160 million on the twinning of Highway 11 from Sylvan Lake to Rocky Mountain House.

Yes, we need to ensure furnaces are capable of starting up years into the future, and that we can overtake the slow poke in front of us on the highway, but if people aren’t well enough to go to college, or to travel, what’s the point?

There will be operating costs associated with the recovery centre, of course.

It’s been reported the Lethbridge supervised drug consumption site receives $7 million annually from the provincial government. So harm reduction, which involves trying to save drug users when they overdose, isn’t cheap — to say nothing of the toll addiction exacts on individuals, families and society in myriad ways.

It is important that those who live in Red Deer can get the supervision they need so they don’t die of their addiction today, but soon, they will have better hope of putting a destructive way of life behind them.

Dealing with addiction is critical. B.C. Premier John Horgan deservedly found himself being criticized for comparing dependency to COVID-19.

The response by B.C.’s provincial health officer, Dr. Bonnie Henry, not only put Horgan in his place, but provides the sensible perspective all of us should keep in mind.

Henry said there are many reasons why people use drugs.

“Nobody grows up thinking ‘I want to be addicted to substances. I want to have a substance use disorder. I want to have this controlling my life,’” she said.

Henry is right.

And thankfully, the provincially funded treatment centre should be complemented by the privately supported Dream Centre, which will transform a former downtown nightclub into a place of hope for those seeking to become well.

The support can’t come soon enough for those suffering from addiction in Red Deer.

David Marsden is managing editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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