The journey in fighting an addiction begins with a single step. That step can begin in many different places across our province, and in many different ways. For one person, it may begin with a stay in Brief and Social Detox in Saskatoon, receiving medical detox support. For another, it may be walking into a clinic to get a free, safe inhalation device, soon to be available in our province, and having that first critical conversation with someone who can help.
“Physicians, care teams and communities need to work together from assessment to supports to help those who are struggling to take steps in their recovery journey,” says Dr. Peter Butt, a provincial addictions specialist. “We are seeing a lot of that happening today. It’s important for our communities to know that there are services in place for individuals to receive detox, get the support they need during that difficult phase, and then leave with the support of medical assistance.”
Approximately 10 years ago, medical withdrawal protocols were developed for alcohol by health care professionals in Saskatoon, with opioid withdrawal protocols developed soon after. These protocols were adopted not only province-wide, but have been adopted in other jurisdictions around the country and world. Today, these protocols help shape many of the services available, for example, at Brief and Social Detox Unit (BSDU) in Saskatoon.
“Brief and Social Detox Unit is a medical detox in everything but its name,” says Dr. Morris Markentin, a Saskatoon physician with expertise in addictions. Markentin partners with Saskatchewan Health Authority’s addictions teams to provide care at BSDU. “The medical approach to detox is critical and is foundational to recovery.”
Brief and Social Detox Centre, Saskatoon
Each weekday, Dr. Markentin will visit BSDU to provide assessment and treatment of any client requiring support. This includes instituting withdrawal protocols and may also include providing a client suboxone, a drug used to treat opioid addiction. He works closely with a registered nurse who ensures the medication is in place and protocols are followed.
BDSU also has paramedics at the centre 24/7 to ensure clients are not having adverse effects and do not require additional medical intervention and addiction counsellors who provide stabilization and recovery-oriented counselling.
But those involved in addictions support point out a medical approach to detox is not the only support available.
“We currently have nearly 1,000 clients accessing our Opioid Assisted Recovery Service (OARS), between Saskatchewan Health Authority clinics in Saskatoon and the Westside Community Clinic,” says Tracy Muggli, Director for Mental Health and Addictions Services in Saskatoon for Saskatchewan Health Authority.
Muggli also points to the Calder Centre Adult Program, a 50-bed inpatient program which provides a safe environment to help adults and youth suffering from substance abuse issues.
“Adult residential treatment services do have wait times; it is why we endeavour to provide day program services, outpatient counselling services, and adult and youth outreach services as a measure to ensure individuals wanting to move into recovery have options to bridge various services,” says Muggli.
SHA also works closely with community-based organizations such as MACSI (Metis Addiction Council of Saskatchewan), which also operates a treatment centre and day program, to provide clients with the widest possible variety of choice and timely access.
“One of our priorities is youth,” says Muggli. “We rarely experience wait times for youth wishing to access stabilization and treatment services at Calder Centre and access is almost always immediate. However, we know that Calder Centre isn’t the only response, and there are wait times for Opioid Agonist Therapy and counselling.”
But this is a situation that is not being ignored, medical providers point out.
“With the recent announcement of a new federal funding agreement, we know there are improvements coming,” says Dr. Butt. “We look forward to working alongside the Ministry of Health to develop better access to these services throughout the province.”
“Addictions is a complex issue and there is no one single solution to make this crisis better for the individuals and families caught up in this,” says Dr. Markentin.
“There are dedicated teams of people from across the spectrum of police, health and social services who continue to work to make changes, improve care and partner together for solutions, and I hope families know that we are here for them,” he says. “Just the other day, I was able to start someone in detox on suboxone. He was so grateful for the entire program and process at detox. It made me so proud of the work underway in our communities, and I hope the fact that we do have services available can give families hope knowing we are here and doing all we can to help.”
If you or your loved one requires access to addiction services, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible.
In Saskatoon, you can call Brief and Social Detox Unit at 306-655-4195, our centralized intake at 306-655-7777, or come to 201 Avenue O South should you require access to addiction services.
There are other services available throughout the province. To find services near your community, visit
saskhealthauthority.ca/services-locations. Or for more information, visit
saskatchewa.ca/residents/health/accessing health care services/mental health and addiction support services.