An Okanagan mother is doing her best to get help for her son as he struggles with opioid addiction, but she’s feeling lost.
Teena Clipston and her family are longtime Kelowna residents, but she moved to Nanaimo a few years ago. Her adult children stayed in the Okanagan.
Three weeks ago, Teena received a call from a social worker in Vernon, informing her that her son Andrew was in “bad shape.” He needed help in an immediate fashion.
“She was thinking that he really didn’t have that much time left; that’s how bad it was,” she said. “On top of that, Andrew also had an overdose, but I wasn’t made aware of that.”
Teena rushed to Kelowna to see her son and get him the help he needs.
Now, as her son focusses on recovering from his overdose and getting through his addiction, Teena is learning that is hard to find help.
Teena wanted to get Andrew on methadone to manage his withdrawal symptoms before they began to search for a rehab facility to check him into. But accessing opioid agonist therapy for Andrew proved difficult, given the over-saturated support system in Interior Health (IH). Teena said it took three days of calling and asking before Andrew was finally put on methadone.
“When we finally got there, they did the intake, but we were told to come back another day to get his prescription.
“It’s not Interior Health’s fault. They’re stretched thin too, but where else do we go for help?”
Teena’s plea for help to get her son into residential treatment comes as IH is working to take addiction and mental health services operating in-house.
Jana Abetkoff with IH’s clinical operations said the health authority is focusing on harm reduction, safe supply and ensuring services match a person’s individual needs.
“Literature shows that residential treatment is not effective,” she said. “Going to a treatment centre is intrusive and it plucks them away from their community, family and job. It puts them in a false environment where they learn new skills and then they are expected to transition back into their community. It’s effective for some but not the majority.”
IH’s approach now is prescribing methadone or starting other types of opioid therapies, but that isn’t what everyone wants either.
“I told the doctor when we got the prescription that I only wanted to use the methadone to help control his pain until we got him into rehab. She said, ‘He wouldn’t need rehab if he was on methadone for the rest of his life,’” Teena said.
“If we just give Andrew methadone for the rest of his life, then he isn’t truly free either. I don’t want that.”
Teena said it’s difficult for Andrew to see the end of the tunnel and more often than not, he feels hopeless. Given the long waitlists, expensive fees and the runaround the two have experienced trying to find help, Teena said she understands why he feels that way.
But she’s not done fighting for him, and she’s asking for the community’s support to keep going.
“I would definitely love some support from people. Advice on which numbers are good to call, getting some real assistance and knowing what to do.
“I just wish I had the answers.”
If you would like to help Teena and Andrew on their journey, visit their fundraiser to donate.