A Kitimat-Stikine regional district committee seeking to have a substance use treatment centre opened in the northwest now has the money to make a business case for the facility. Cedar LNG, a proposed small-scale natural gas liquefaction facility just outside of Kitimat, stepped up with $25,000 toward the total cost.
Committee chair James Cordeiro, a City of Terrace appointee to the regional district, has been a strong advocate for the facility alongside local doctors. “The intent here is to show the need,” said Cordeiro.
Just as important, added Cordeiro, is having a document to show there’s a cost of not having a place where people can undergo managed withdrawals.
Originally called the Northwest Detox Centre Select Committee and formally established last year, the name has since been changed to the Northwest Withdrawal Management Select Committee, a description Cordeiro says is more accurate.
“I think in the medical community the word ‘detox’ has become archaic,” said Cordeiro in adding that the term can also come with a stigma.
Changing the name of the committee also moves the issue of substance use and dependency in the region beyond alcohol to include meth and opioids.
The lack of a treatment facility for people managing withdrawal has long been a sore point for Cordeiro and other City of Terrace councillors over the years when they were focused on alcohol abuse as a problem.
The city has consistently put forth the image of people newly withdrawn from alcohol being placed on a bus for ongoing treatment in Prince George, but then being unable to complete the trip because of withdrawal complications.
“I would say there’s been an acknowledgement that alcohol has been a problem in Terrace if we look back at the 2000s when there were downtown [RCMP] bike patrols,” said Cordeiro of first attempts to monitor or control public scenes of drinking.
“With meth now and opioids, have we gotten to the place where we have gotten caught up with the rest of the province,” Cordeiro wondered.
Regional district staffers will now issue a request for proposals leading to the selection of someone to prepare the business case.
Cordeiro says there’s a lot of data to be collected, some of which will involve the monetary costs of ambulance callouts, police callouts and emergency room visits because of substance use and abuse.
“The intent here is to show the cost of not doing anything is greater than the cost of doing something,” he said.
With the money to build a business case, Cordeiro hopes the final product will receive serious consideration from the provincial government.
“Going back to alcohol, when we were making that as an issue, we could never get any traction from the government,” he said.
Cordeiro stressed that the data and information contained in the business case will be widely available.
“The purpose of the committee isn’t to supplant the work already being done but rather to supplement and support it,” he said.
In addition to demonstrating the need for a withdrawal management facility in the northwest, the study will also provide an idea of its size and of exact services it would provide.
The select committee includes physicians belonging to the Pacific Northwest Division of Family Practice which represents family physicians in Dease Lake, Haida Gwaii (Daajing Giids and Masset), Houston, Kitimat, Gitlaxt’aamiks, Prince Rupert, Smithers, Stewart, and Terrace.
Two other regional district directors, Bruce Bidgood, who represents the rural area surrounding Terrace that is not Thornhill, and Tina Etzerza, who represents the area around Dease Lake, also sit on the committee along with representatives of First Nations local governments and agencies, members of non-profit groups and members from the community at large.
Regional district officials applied for the Cedar LNG grant after regional district chair and Kitimat mayor Phil Germuth came into contact with the project’s proponents.