The province of Alberta has seen an increase in opioid-related deaths over the past few years as it faces an increase in substance abuse issues that the whole country has been struggling with.
Last week, the Alberta government reported that 113 people died from opioid fatalities in April, a seven per cent decrease since March and a 34 per cent decrease since November.
Despite that, these numbers remain higher than pre-pandemic levels, with an almost five per cent increase since April 2021 and just over 41 per cent increase since April 2020.
That’s why advocates of the Shunda Creek Centre fought so hard to keep the doors of the Alberta wilderness treatment centre open when it was reported the program was facing closure.
Former clients and advocates launched a GoFundMe petition to help save the facility, many saying it saves their lives and rescued them from addiction.
Saving hundreds of lives
Shunda Creek is a 10-bed adventure therapy program for men aged 18 to 24 that has operated for 13 years at a former work camp for young offenders west of Rocky Mountain House. The 12-week wilderness-based addiction and mental health program has saved hundreds of lives since it opened.
“The way that we use adventure therapy as an approach to addictions treatment is through the intention setting process broken up into five different phases, the patients start with the engagement phase and then the acceptance phase, the courage phase, passion phase and commitment,” explains Stephen Harding, an alumnus and advocate of Shunda Creek.
“With that, we design an intervention and we handcraft wilderness experiences, things like hiking, rock climbing, rappelling, river crossing.”
A saving grace
Things were looking grim for the facility after its lease for the site ran out, prompting former clients to launch a fundraiser, but last week the treatment centre secured funding for a new site, prompting many sighs of relief.
AHS and Enviros found a new spot for the centre to call home but needed about $625,000 to purchase it and those connected to the campaign confirmed that funding is in place to keep the facility open.
“We are absolutely thrilled that we will be able to continue providing this invaluable program, and that young Albertans will continue to benefit from this unique and important treatment,” Enviros CEO Hazel Bergen said in a press release.
With support for rehab and addiction centres struggling in Alberta, the province’s increase in overdoses still remains a large issue. After also having legal injection sites removed in the city, many who are struggling with addiction find themselves on waiting lists or without any resources to help them.
But there’s still a big need for more
Wyatt Garrett is another alumni from the Shunda Creek program. Having had other family members face addiction, Garrett says it is extremely important to have support.
“I believe that rehabilitation and overall harm reduction services are really lacking in Canada because I think that stigmas, bias, and attitudes that we hold towards people with addiction or even just with drug consumption itself is just so negatively stigmatized that people don’t want to talk about either,” Garrett says.
“When you’re in addiction, that narcotic of your choice becomes one of the instincts of survival, like food, water and shelter.”
Hoping to raise awareness and keep the support going for addiction centres and rehab programs all around, Harding hopes that people take notice and advocate for change within the province.
“Every single person that’s struggling with addiction has the capacity for change and growth if they’re presented the opportunity to do that,” Harding says. “I have four kids, I’m a super involved father, and I’m taking these methods that I healed from and applying it to my kid’s life just to break that chain of addiction before it even starts.”
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