The Residents in Recover society is calling for more support for addicts and detox centres. The society offers a sober living environment after addicts go through detox, while they wait for a residential treatment program. In a Facebook post, the society says that harm reduction alone isn’t enough to curb addiction and save lives.

Tyler Lorenz, program director of the Residents in Recovery Society, says that the increase in drug-related deaths shows how active addictions need more than harm reduction.

“Individuals in active addiction still need detox and treatment in order to move in with their lives,” says Lorenz. “Harm reduction only lasts so far. I think we’ve shown by the continued upswing in deaths every year that even though there is harm reduction, we can’t keep these people alive with harm reduction alone. They need treatment.”

Lorenz says that too much focus is on harm reduction and drug awareness. When it comes to treatment options, Lorenz says his organization sees a number of barriers for those with active addictions to overcome.

“Every single day we send people to detox in Lloyd, Edmonton or Saskatoon, there’s still a four to seven day wait for detox centres,” says Lorenz. “We probably only get, I’d say, twenty-five or thirty per cent of individuals who ask for detox into detox.”

Lorenz says it’s a struggle for those seeking treatment to make phone calls each day and keep checking if there’s a spot open for them. He adds that transportation is also a barrier.

“Getting people to Edmonton or Saskatoon, if it wasn’t for me driving them personally, we probably wouldn’t get anybody there.”

Residents in Recovery helps addicts get into detox, and wish they could house more people in sober living. They currently only have a men’s sober living house.

“It’s currently full with a two-month waiting list,” says Lorenz. “With a woman’s house, we could probably fill a woman’s house with a waiting list we have for that.” The society says they’re actively looking for a women’s sober living house and somewhere to house parents with children or couples in recovery.

Lorenz says there’s a gap in supports between detox and treatment, and that most pressure on detox centres could be alleviated if active addictions had better support options.

“We send people to detox, and then we send them back into the exact same environment they got sick in, with the expectation they’ll stay clean and sober for one to five months until they get into treatment.,” says Lorenz. “What ends up happening is that they’ll usually end up in hospital, back in detox in that time frame, in jail, drunk tank, whatever.

“It’s a huge drain on the system. It’s so inefficient because we’re not supporting these individuals for that piece in the middle.” Lorenz also says that there’s little support options post-treatment, like sober living, and wants to see more government support for sober living environments.

“It’s not feasible to do this forever with community donations,” says Lorenz. “I’d like to see governments step up and recognize the importance of programs such as ours.”

Lorenz maintains that there is an important place for harm reduction, calling it a necessity.

“It is the only thing keeping a lot of these people alive,” says Lorenz. He estimates that no harm reduction would see deaths in the tens of thousands per year. The Residents in Recovery society is a naloxone distributor and offers naloxone kits to those who use drugs.