It “felt like a long time coming” when Phoenix Society opened a new 10-bed residential substance use program in Whalley in late July, said Keir Macdonald.
It’s funded by Fraser Health, with a grant from the Surrey Homelessness and Housing Society.
Macdonald, the society’s CEO, said the process for getting the house up and running started in April of 2019. He said as it was getting into its final stages, “COVID hit.”
“I don’t think people really understand how long it takes for a new resource to come online,” said Macdonald.
Phoenix House is for men who have completed withdrawal management and may be waiting to enter an intensive residential services and support program; may have completed a program, but require further support in a safe environment; or may be in the process of reintegrating back into the community and “require low-to-moderate” services and supports in a safe, structures living arrangement free of alcohol and illicit drugs.”
“They’re either in active withdrawal still or having just gone through a detox,” explained Macdonald. “It’s even safety from the risk of overdose. A primary piece, and that’s why it’s such a large referral source, is people being discharged from a detox without a bed to move into.”
Macdonald added that returning home alone is also “such an unsafe thing right now.”
“So to have a resource that is staffed 24 hours a day, that is supported by clinical resources as well where they can access medications daily on-site, it really helps build that safety and those safe coping skills that we’re really trying to focus on in the initial phase.”
Daniel Marks, the society’s director of programs, mental health and addictions, described the program as a “soft landing.”
“The idea is it’s supposed to be a soft landing for people who are in preparation to move on to either an intensive residential treatment program or maybe support recovery or they just need somewhere to stabilize for a few weeks before returning home,” Marks said.
“The whole program is designed to make people comfortable, make people feel safe. We’re not doing intensive therapy here. We operate under a recovery wellness plan that has been worked on for quite a while with Fraser Health and with people in the community.”
While it’s designed as a three- to six-week program, Marks said the average stay is four to five weeks.
He said it gives people enough time to stabilize, heal up and stabilize on medication.
“(That’s) a big one because often people coming out of hospitals or detox are just getting their dose, so they might not even be on the right dose. They could be on too much and then be too lethargic or too little and still be in withdrawals. That allows them just enough time to receive the supports, the stabilization, that they need.”
Which Marks said then leads into the intensive programs.
“When you work with people in a 90-day intensive setting, there’s always this element where people are feeling like, ‘Maybe I should leave’ or ‘I don’t know if can do this,’” he explained.
“We’re constantly supporting people to stay for the long-term, which we have a lot of success with. In this setting, when they were doing treatment on the main campus, they would be less likely to want to move on to the next stage. So now that it’s separated, all of the focus is on what will your next stage be and what can we do to ensure that you’re successful in what your next steps are.”
For more information on Phoenix House, visit phoenixsociety.com/facilities/phoenix-house/.