Province House protest calls for more addictions services

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“People are dying – there’s no treatment here for people that are suffering with mental illness and addiction,” a mother told a crowd of supporters during a protest at Province House Tuesday.

Dianne Young organized the protest in an attempt to push lawmakers in P.E.I. into doing more to provide services for Islanders struggling with addictions.

Young’s son, Lennon Waterman, is believed to have taken his own life in November as a result of an addiction to prescription drugs.

“My son Lennon’s life was not in vain, I will not let him be forgotten,” Young said.

“It is my hope that by me sharing my story, other families may have a different outcome. It’s time to make a change, it’s time that the government took a stand and had the courage to do something about this disease.”

About 100 people gathered at Province House Tuesday evening, many holding signs with pleas for action and help.

‘Save our kids on P.E.I.,’ one sign read. ‘Recovery, not rhetoric,’ said another.

People with tragic stories of lost loved ones and of family members still struggling with their addictions spoke, explaining the painful ways they have learned more services are needed in P.E.I.

Bev Semple told of how her son, who became an intravenous drug user, found it easier to access methadone treatment in Alberta than in P.E.I.

“I’m so proud of him, and he’s even off the methadone now,” she said to cheers from the crowd.

“Please help our children.”

Greg MacKinnon spoke of his own personal struggles with addiction, but also from his experience in as a former youth addictions worker.

He said he believes the present treatment system is worse now than it was 25 years ago. At that time there was a rehabilitation program that began directly after detox, which is no longer the case.

“The system is so horribly broken,” he said.

“Thank god I got treated how I did when I did because if I had gone to treatment when I was using and they had said, ‘We’ll run you through detox for seven days and send you home for two weeks while you wait for treatment,’ I’d have died,” MacKinnon told the crowd.

“It’s such a stupid, ridiculous thing to tell an addict to go home and wait for help because they can’t. They’re addicts. It doesn’t work like that.”

Young and the other protesters are calling on government to open an in-patient addictions facility – one that would offer not only detox, but also after-care and rehabilitation.

The Opposition Tories have been calling for a youth addictions treatment facility for the last year, and MLA James Aylward reiterated this Tuesday evening.

Health Minister Doug Currie said he is committed to making inroads on the issue.

“We will and we need to be better,” he said.

Both he and Premier Robert Ghiz pointed to the fact the province’s chief mental health addictions officer, Dr. Rhonda Matters, is currently reviewing all services and issues related to this complex file.

But if she recommends a new addictions facility for P.E.I., Ghiz committed Tuesday evening in the legislature he will immediately move forward on it.

“I have sat down with people within our system, and they’ve said it's not the right way to go… they look at the overall size of the population, how many beds we would need, what we could do with collaboration and that’s the direction that we’ve taken thus far,” Ghiz said.

“If (Matters) comes back and says to us and says, ‘Yes, having a facility in Prince Edward Island will lead towards better outcomes… I will not hesitate. If we have to increase our deficit by another $3-5 million, I hope (the Opposition) will stand and applaud us, because I’ll do it tomorrow.”

Organizations: Province House, Islanders

Geographic location: Prince Edward Island, Alberta

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  • John W.A.Curtis
    April 16, 2014 - 11:14

    Journal pioneer won't report on my presentation on addictions, I wanted a Provincial Ombudsman. An Ombudsman would investigate schools ,hospitals and police. Wayne Cheverie and the Liberals changed Mental Health Legislation in 1993 to protect the Mental health profession and deny rights to people who suffer with Mental Health illnesses. The Conservatives removed addictions from Summerside to Mount Herbert . There is no Mental health or Addictions advocate