Centre on Substance Use says residents misinterpreting report

No single path to recovery

Addiction and recovery experts from the BC Centre on Substance Use say Rutland residents opposed to supportive housing in their part of Kelowna are misinterpreting data about the effectiveness of such projects.

Supportive housing to get people off the streets and help drug users kick their addictions has been a hot topic in Rutland, where residents say they are being unfairly burdened with too many of the units. Earlier this year, they successfully lobbied to have one wet facility, where clients can use drugs on site, switched to a dry facility where they are forbidden.

Efforts continue to block similar projects, and the Centre on Substance Use says proponents of a petition against a McCurdy Road housing project are mistaken.

"There are many pathways to recovery from substance use addiction. Challenges presented by addiction are complex, requiring a variety of interventions and supports which extend beyond healthcare. As we work to build out the continuum of care for addiction, it's critical that we don't close off any supports that might benefit someone living with an addiction," the centre's Carson McPherson wrote in a submission to Castanet.

He says the petition organizers misinterpreted data from the centre's report Strategies to Strengthen Recovery in British Columbia: The Path Forward, "citing it as evidence that supportive housing initiatives for people who use drugs would not be effective. In fact, the opposite is true."

McPherson says misinformation about the role of supportive housing can have unintended and unfortunate consequences. It may mean that those who need additional support in their life in order to focus on their recovery won't receive it.

"That would be a tragic outcome resulting from a misunderstanding," he wrote.

Supportive housing provides residents with access to targeted support services which includes linkages to community-based health programs, including primary health care, as well as mental health and addiction recovery services. These services not only benefit the residents but the community as well, says McPherson.

"We know that access to safe and affordable housing helps people become and stay healthy. Nearly a third of the people surveyed in the report said supportive housing helped them on their path to recovery. I encourage anyone who's interested to read the full report."

The centre's Kevin Hollett backed up that sentiment, adding advocates from Journey Home, BC Housing, and the Centre on Substance Use "certainly take (residents') concerns to heart."

"Addiction is a highly stigmatized disease that affects all demographics ... We need to make sure we consider all approaches, that we don't close any doors.

"We are in the middle of a public health emergency. Thousands of people have died, and this is devastating communities."

"I hope we'll base our decisions on compassion and evidence, and not fear and misinformation," said McPherson.

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