Calgary families share stories of struggling to get help for addictions

A group of Albertans who have been directly impacted by addictions met with the province’s associate minister of mental health and addictions in Calgary on Friday.

The group showed up to talk about their struggles in trying to get help for their loved ones.

Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Jason Luan hosted the roundtable discussion at McDougall Centre to mark Overdose Awareness Day.

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“Today we remember those who we have lost, and keep their families and friends in our thoughts,” he said. “Today we are also here to gather around to do some things so that we can do better in helping people.”

Leslie Kime was one of the people at the roundtable discussion. Three years ago, she lost her son Jason to a drug overdose.

Kime credits the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre with helping Jason as a teen. He relapsed after getting out of the program.

“As a parent, it was incredibly painful to watch him fail — to watch him die,” Kime said. “He knew he was an addict. He knew he couldn’t use even a little bit without danger of relapse.

“[Then] he got the idea that he could handle it. He was wrong.”

Mike Moss has a 22-year-old daughter who has battled addictions since junior high, but the Calgary man considers himself lucky.

Moss was able to pay over $100,000 for her to get treatment in California. But he worries about those who don’t have access to long-term programs.

“Because people don’t appreciate that addiction is a disease and that it is relentless,” he said. “It is a day-to-day battle for these people, so an overnight or 10-day rehab centre [stay] just doesn’t cut it.

“You need long-term support.”

Sam Stordy, a 27-year-old Calgary man, was also at the McDougall Centre discussion on Friday.

Stordy said he has been clean for three years now. Before that, he repeatedly overdosed on fentanyl and heroin.

Stordy said it was easier to get access to clean needles in Calgary than it was to get help.

“It was easier for me to call and get things delivered to me, or [to] go get high than it was to getting admitted into a psych ward and [to] see a psychiatrist or a professional when you were losing your mind,” he said.

“It was quicker and more effective to just get high again.”

Luan said that what stood out for him on Friday was hearing about the number of different services that didn’t work for families.

“Some felt it was short, not long enough, so you’re kind of jumping from one [program] to another,” he said. “Others felt you were kind of stopping at the surface and didn’t get to the deep root issues.”

Luan said there are effective treatment options available in Alberta, but many people continue to have trouble accessing them.

He said  the government is working on closing the gaps in the addiction and mental health-care system and on adding more treatment spaces.

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