A Whitehorse mother is angry that her daughter was released from the Sarah Steele Alcohol and Drug Services Centre without receiving treatment.
She wishes to remain anonymous to protect her daughter’s identity.
She said Friday her daughter checked herself into the centre the previous Wednesday afternoon, but was soon released from the facility.
For the last four to five years, the daughter has suffered from multiple addictions to substances like crack, heroin and alcohol.
She said her daughter told her she was released because she had not used drugs nor alcohol within the last 24 hours. She said her daughter was released by 7 p.m. that day.
This angered her. She said she called the centre for clarification on its actions. She was told the centre couldn’t help her daughter since she had not used any substances within the preceding 24 hours.
She felt that not treating her daughter could put her life in danger.
She also worried that the daughter would take the decision as an order to go out and use whatever substance so she could return and access services.
“It’s literally like playing Russian roulette with her life,” the mother said. She has never heard of the centre doing something like this in the past.
The daughter returned to her mother’s house last Thursday, and they discussed what had happened. The daughter said she would go back to the centre at a later date.
At the time of Friday’s interview, the mother was unsure where her daughter went after she left the house.
While she is worried about her, she pointed out that she has been able to gain control of her addictions in the past. Earlier this year, her daughter was able to regulate her addictions after treatment, but eventually relapsed.
She said her daughter had signed up for treatment after the relapse but before going to the centre. She did not follow through at that time. The mother feels her daughter genuinely wanted help last Wednesday.
She said drug addiction is not something that just disappears from one’s life – relapses are common. She explained that you learn how to manage your addiction and find other ways to use your energy.
“It (addiction) is never something that ever goes away,” the mother said.
Mary Vanstone, a Department of Health and Social Services (HSS) director, explained the admission practices for withdrawal management services.
She said this is no longer called “detox”.
These services are available for all Yukoners over the age of 16 who are either impaired or going through withdrawal after using substances.
Vanstone cannot discuss the specific case, but explained that if someone has not used any substances, he or she will not be going through withdrawal.
She added there could be other factors involved that prevented the daughter from meeting admission criteria.
Historically, Vanstone said, the centre offered a shelter-type alcohol and drug services addiction treatment.
HSS stopped offering this service because there was a significant demand for withdrawal treatment services.
This meant staff now has to reserve services for people who have either used drugs or are suffering withdrawal.
Vanstone said the timeframe may be different depending on the drug in question. She said alcohol would need to be in someone’s system within 24 hours to meet the admission criteria on withdrawal management.
Vanstone clarified that she is not a nurse, so cannot say which drugs could have longer timeframes.
If someone has not consumed alcohol in the past 24 hours, she added, that individual would not be intoxicated.
That said, if the person has an alcohol dependency, he or she may be going through withdrawal. Symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, headaches and sweating.
“That would require medical withdrawal,” Vanstone said.
She was not able to say if there was a bed shortage or if the program was oversubscribed last Wednesday.
The centre is run like a hospital ward, Vanstone said. Beds become available as patients are discharged.
There are other options for addictions treatment should someone not meet the criteria for withdrawal management. There is a supportive recovery program available daily. One-on-one counselling is another option.
Anyone seeking these services goes through a general intake, which determines what services and supports are needed. From there, the individual seeking help can choose to participate in an in-patient intense treatment program or seek out-patient services.
Vanstone said people looking for these services must be able to self-emulate, as staff are not able to provide assisted living services.
“We’re not set up for that,” she said.
If someone needs such help, he or she can be transferred to Whitehorse General Hospital for a higher level of care.