Health care workers in Kelowna, B.C. take in mental health and addiction conference

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WATCH: Health care workers who deal with those experiencing mental health or substance-use issues had the opportunity to take in an educational seminar in Kelowna on Friday. The Western Canada Addiction Forum provided tips and information on how to better care for those battling mental health and addiction. Jayden Wasney reports. – Sep 23, 2022

The Western Canada Addiction Forum was founded in 2013, to provide clinicians with improved skills and education when it comes to dealing with patients battling mental health and addiction. After a two-year pandemic pause, this two-day event is back in Kelowna, B.C.

“It’s not okay for people not to get help, and so, how can we get as many of our health care providers feeling more and more comfortable in addiction, but also getting out there and saying the same thing?” said Dr. Rob Tanguay, addiction psychiatrist and WCAF co-chair.

“It’s time for us to let politicians know enough is enough, people shouldn’t have to wait to get help.”

Dr. Tanguay added that the two-year COVID pause surprisingly helped members of the WCAF better understand what it’s like for those dealing with mental health and/or substance use.

Read more: Experts recommend big boosts to mental health supports to deal with repeat offenders in B.C.

“Our whole job is about helping people who are struggling with isolation and mental health and addiction, and then we as treatment providers got to see what it was like to go through that process of being isolated and the struggles with it,” explained Dr. Tanguay.

“It’s exciting for us all to get together again.”

Those on hand at the WCAF event in Kelowna heard from guest speakers, who answered questions from the crowd. Booths were also set up at the venue where people like Nirmala Raniga were stationed, sharing information on her treatment facility, Paradise Valley Healing Centre in Squamish.

“We have seen that people can heal and the way that we will do this is through compassion, through non-judgment, providing that collective, collaborative approach to treating mental health and addiction,” described Nirmala Raniga, founder of Paradise Valley Healing Centre.

Read more: Recovery Day in Winnipeg attracts crowd to defeat addictions, stigma: ‘There’s always hope’

Raniga and her team have treated mental health and addiction for three decades with that very approach. She says when dealing with those who don’t want to receive treatment, it’s important to not attach conditions and to stay committed to helping that person.

“It is a process, it’s an ongoing process of support and that’s why resources are provided to the individual,” said Raniga.

“Whether they go to meetings, they continue to see a therapist, and often at treatment centres, families are invited to participate in how to support the loved one.”

In B.C. alone, there were over 2,200 deaths in 2021 due to illicit-drug overdoses. Raniga says as a country, Canada has hit a crisis point when it comes to mental health and addiction.

Read more: Okanagan saw toxic drug deaths surge this summer

“I believe right now, we need more resources,” expressed Raniga.

“For example if somebody wants to go to a residential treatment centre, not everything is funded, we are not even funded. There’s a cost attached to it and its expensive, so I think more resources need to be allocated to help people access treatment.

On Thursday, the B.C. government announced $2 million dollars in funding towards improving the quality of care in mental health and substance use treatment.

For more information on the WCAF, click here.

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