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Detox centre sees rising numbers of people accessing its services during the pandemic

Last Updated Apr 10, 2021 at 5:07 am MDT

Photo courtesy of Pastew Place on Facebook

Fort McMurray detox centre reports higher number of clients mid-pandemic

Crisis see more people seeking out addiction recovery services in Fort McMurray

FORT MCMURRAY (660 NEWS) — Pastew Place is a local detox centre in Fort McMurray. Serving people from across Wood Buffalo and around the province, Pastew Place is a 16-bed facility, boasting four different programs to help people struggling with addiction.

Pretreatment, detox, post-treatment, and day programs are available through Pastew Place, allowing for continuous care and treatment for people tackling substance abuse. Amber Fort is the executive director of the centre, she says that they’ve seen an increase in people accessing their services throughout the pandemic.

This is something they’re accustomed to during a crisis.

“The wildfire really set the tone and gave us a really good understanding of how our services are utilized in our community after a crisis,” Fort said, adding that they saw their numbers go from 82 patients to 180 patients in 2016.

This followed the devastating wildfire that swept the community of Fort McMurray, causing the largest mass evacuation in Alberta’s history.  The blaze saw upwards of 80,000 people forced from their homes.

“We are seeing clients that we’ve dealt with for the last ten years and they’ve had two or three years of sobriety. Now they’re needing the help again,” Fort told 660 NEWS. She adds that this is how they know that there will continue to be an increased need for their services.

“When you throw on things like mental health issues or you put in place substance abuse issues — that makes those changes harder,” Fort explained, adding that their variety of programs aim to help in all the steps of recovery.

The day program at the centre is designed as an educational tool, covering topics from family addiction to detoxing. Fort says that this program can be stand-alone, but they encourage people accessing their detox services to take part.

“We’re a firm believer in knowledge as power,” Fort said, adding “You can’t change something that you know nothing about.”

In addition to the day program, Pastew also provides detox services, post-treatment programs, and pretreatment programs for those looking to overcome substance abuse.

According to the Health Officer’s Council of B.C., 47,000 Canadians die every year as a result of substance use.

“Our programs are designed to be a continuum of care,” Fort said, explaining that they want to ensure that people struggling with addiction are fully supported.

“We want them to know we’re never leaving their side.”

The centre has a variety of donors, including Syncrude and The Wood Buffalo Community Foundation.

Most recently, the centre was the recipient of a new grant from the Albertan government.

The grant will be dedicated to proving two more beds at Pastew Place, as well as funding their client coordinator position. The coordinator is responsible for making arrangements for people accessing Pastew Place services, connecting them with other resources like treatment facilities.

According to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, substance abuse has cost our healthcare system upwards of $8 billion.

Despite this, the Health Officer’s Council of British Columbia reports that for every $5 spent by the Canadian government on detox programs like those at Pastew, $95 is spent on incarceration related to substance abuse.