A modern solution to substance use


Imagine a person struggling with addictions and possible trauma coming in to receive care. Then, imagine they are being asked to transport themselves across different cities and manage their own appointments, in addition to having limited transportation and timekeeping options on top of these incredibly challenging issues.

This is a reality for so many people who have found themselves in desperate need of help. And this is why the opening of the new Withdrawal Management Centre (WMC) is of the utmost importance.

“Withdrawal management is often considered to be the first component of treatment to remove the harmful substance from the body,” says Dr. Ronald Joe, Medical Director of Substance Use Services at Vancouver Community.

“A person’s initial experience is often a major factor in determining how well they do, and in response to this, we are designing a purpose-built facility to help care for these individuals in order to save lives.”

Individualized care

Currently, resources for substance use are available yet scattered and difficult to navigate for an already vulnerable population.

The WMC will aggregate many of these resources currently scattered across Metro Vancouver and put them under one roof. These resources will be more fulsome and interconnected, providing clients and their families with an improved treatment and support system.

“We’re trying to increase the number of recovered patients and improve the experience of clients entering the system,” says Dr. Joe. “In fact, part of the design process involved engagement with a number of client and peer-based groups, including Indigenous consultation, to ensure it is culturally aware and responsive to the diverse needs of people who enter the system.”

The goal is to have the centre be as approachable and comprehensive in its care as possible to ensure no one falls through the cracks.

Manuel Jualino believes this centre will help people like him have the best chance at recovery.

“I didn’t realize it was an addiction until almost a bottle was disappearing every day”

Manuel spent nearly two decades of his life drinking heavily every day. It was routine.

“I would get up and go to work, come home, repeat, repeat, and it was the same thing over and over,” says Manuel. “One day I just couldn’t do it anymore, which is when I first engaged in help by admitting myself into the hospital.”

Manuel’s journey has been extremely difficult with several ups and downs into relapse. But with the help of others and in particular the at-home detox service available through VCH, he has found himself able to find his way through to sobriety.

“I would say that relapse is an extremely common part of recovery, so we approach it in a very non-judgmental and compassionate way, because we want clients to not feel that shame and guilt that comes with relapse,” says Kristin Nelson, Addiction Nurse. “Being able to go somewhere they can easily navigate within the system and find the resource that’s the best fit for them in that moment in time is extremely important to get somebody started with their recovery.”

“If all the services were available to someone in one building, that would be the ideal, perfect situation,” says Manuel.

Philanthropy will make an impact on care

As the WMC is still years away from completion, there is an opportunity for philanthropy to directly impact the quality of care at this centre.

“Most of the scientific research has really focused on the short-term outcomes, like how well patients do in six to 12 months,” says Dr. Joe. “But in medicine, I think the best type of research has to do with long-term outcomes.”

Dr. Joe envisions donations helping establish a long-term research program to monitor clients throughout their recovery journey in order to rapidly learn and improve their outcomes.

In addition, there are opportunities to expand on programs that help to destigmatize substance use and the recovery process at the centre, to name a few.

All of this he knows will help save the lives of these individuals who need our help.

“I’ve personally seen individuals go from the streets to complete success, and in some cases even come to work for us,” says Dr. Joe.

“Seeing people succeed is extremely rewarding,” adds Kristin. “You just see their entire lives open up, and all of this opportunity come to these individuals.”