Whitehorse Daily Star

Mother questions daughter’s release from centre

A Whitehorse mother is angry that her daughter was released from the Sarah Steele Alcohol and Drug Services Centre without receiving treatment.

By Gord Fortin on September 10, 2018

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.

Comments (11)

Up 4 Down 1

Irwin M. Fletcher on Sep 15, 2018 at 7:17 pm

Another revolving door agency whose primary function is the maintenance of high paying salaries for over-educated, low-skilled government workers.
Another department of Health and Social Services that is a threat to the public good through the enabling of self-destructive and criminal behaviours.

In trouble with the law go to treatment to receive your mitigated sentencing hearing. Repeat as necessary when before the courts again, again and again.

Up 12 Down 2

Groucho d'North on Sep 13, 2018 at 10:10 am

This is yet another example of how the public views government-provided services. If the agency is attending to their needs, parents and family are not involved, or feel they don't need to be contributing in some way, in fact some view ADS as another rehab clinic like the rich and famous attend when they come off the rails. Similar to preventing FASD, family involvement is necessary and should not be delegated to strangers in some institution. But then, in some cases, family just want the trouble-making addict to be out of the house and not their problem anymore.
Perhaps what the Yukon really needs is a 24-7-365 daycare for all those lost souls who
1) can't cope with raising kids effectively;
2) can't deal with their addictions or those of a family member;
3) feel oppressed by living in these modern times and having to keep up with society and all its ills;
4) all of the above.

Up 7 Down 11

Hans Gruber on Sep 12, 2018 at 7:09 am

ADS or MWSUS now, is staffed full of rejects from other agencies and departments. They have the collective wisdom of a flatulent in the park on a windy day.

Again, another branch of the government whose politicality is equated with practicality.

Many of the dream about becoming astronauts and are currently in training mode - taking up space.
And once they put on those space suits the scent of their collective wisdom will become tangible...

Up 11 Down 3

Support Advocate on Sep 11, 2018 at 8:43 pm

Withdrawal Services at the Sarah Steele building is just that, for people who are withdrawing from substances. It’s short term in respect to each individual in regard to stabilization. It's not long term. It’s not a place to go as a way to not use. People need to go to the main part of the building in order to do an Intake in regard to services. They would be meeting with a Counselor in a scheduled appointment to do further assessments. There is the Treatment Program and attending the Treatment Program would be determined between the Counselor and the person seeking treatment. History would be taken in regard to other treatment programs accessed, plus other history. In the end it’s up to the person who is seeking treatment to make the commitment to recovery and the Treatment Program by seeking other resources out there like AA and or NA, working with their Family doctor and or other doctors. Addictions is a very complex matter that can encompass trauma from abuse, mental health disabilities may be a factor, thus the need for a thorough assessment. The Yukon Government has a web site in regard to their services under Mental Wellness and Substance Use Services - Resources for general public. I wish this woman and her mother all the very best in this long and difficult journey. But do not give up as people have been successful in their recovery.

Up 10 Down 2

Buzz Lightyear on Sep 11, 2018 at 4:27 pm

ADS resources are finite. There a a finite number of beds. A finite number of medical professionals. A finite number of councilors. A finite number of programming options.

You don't have your 'moment of clarity' and simply walk into a 40 day inpatient program, it just doesn't happen that way.
As mentioned below the acute withdrawal (formerly detox) stage is 4-5 days max. It's only a supervised medical process and while there is a small programming component those two things don't happen concurrently. Someone reeling from withdrawal is not yet mentally fit for the process of treatment.

This young woman needs to do an intake to get on a list for any/all of the various treatments and be prepared to wait in the queue just like the rest of us have. You don't get to jump to the front of the line because you are special. In the meantime there are dozens of drop in meetings available, also mentioned below.

Up 8 Down 13

Interested Yukoner on Sep 11, 2018 at 1:20 pm

I don’t understand ADS. This woman’s daughter has serious addiction problems and she is turned away because she isn’t intoxicated or on drugs. They should be taking people who are asking for help not turning them away. I noticed the ADS spokesperson did not say they were full. What does she mean when she says, “people must be able to self-emulate”! Speak in plain English and have some empathy. If this young woman left the centre and overdosed then what excuse would they come up with? We need to see how effective ADS is; where are the program evaluations? They have a fancy new building but how do we know any of their programs are doing what they are supposed to do?

Up 16 Down 6

Jayne W on Sep 11, 2018 at 11:06 am

If an addict (going through withdrawal or not) goes to the Sarah Steel Building that is the window of hope and help for the addict. Do not turn them away with a brochure and a phone number, get working with them right away. That moment of clarity only happens every now and then for the addict and when it is there, THAT is when they need every resource possible to help them. As for thinking that it is acceptable for a parent or whatever to do help that is crap. Parents are not professionals and they could be enabling the disease to some degree.

Up 11 Down 6

Concerned Yukoner on Sep 10, 2018 at 8:48 pm

I understand the mother’s frustration, the girl has serious addiction issues and wanted help, so what if she was not detoxing. The government needs to look into the success rates of ADS programs and find out if any of them are helping anyone. Let’s hear some statistics on successful outcomes or not so we can change what needs to be changed. A fancy new building doesn’t mean a successful program. ADS should priories youth and this girl was ready and waiting for help and didn’t get it. Let’s hope nothing happens to her.

Up 25 Down 0

Buzz Lightyear on Sep 10, 2018 at 4:17 pm

Let me preface by saying that I've been through 'Detox' and various programming at Sarah Steele.

Unless you are violent or disruptive you will not be turned away from (Detox) now called Acute Withdrawal. The staff there are amazing and attentive, really top notch. Once your acute withdrawal is complete you can choose to be added to the wait list of various programming/counseling options. There is however unreasonable wait times (many months in some cases) for much of the programming and counseling. YG needs to working shortening those wait times and bring up staffing levels to treat what amounts to an epidemic in our society. There are also a bunch of daily drop-in options like AA, NA, SMART and weekly group counseling both at Sarah Steel and elsewhere in town.

That said, as the patient, you are free to walk away from any or all treatment/counseling and staff respect that choice but obviously don't agree with it.
Rather than 'blaming the system' this person needs to come to terms with their situation and own their recovery. A person cannot recover if they are not 100% committed and not recovering only has grave circumstances.

Up 40 Down 16

My Opinion on Sep 10, 2018 at 3:59 pm

This isn't a Hotel. You don't just check in because you need a place to stay. If you are not withdrawing you shouldn't be there. Others that are, need those spaces.
She was at the Mothers house so why doesn't she look after her??? Hard to help those that won't help themselves.

Up 32 Down 19

Yukon Girl on Sep 10, 2018 at 3:50 pm

I believe this... I too went to the center asking, crying for help with my addiction. I was suicidal at the time and they asked me some questions then said I don't need help and that I didn't have a problem. I think the YTG needs to re-evaluate the addictions resources and figure out a better plan how to help those struggling with alcohol and drug addiction. The current system doesn't work...

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