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Waiting Lists for Drug & Alcohol Rehabilitation in Canada

Who is seeking out help?

When a family is searching for a drug and alcohol rehabilitation program, they will come across facilities that do have waiting lists, and this is simply because there is not enough room at the time to treat a patient. The wait times are often seen with government-funded services, or inpatient facilities that are funded by the province or territory. Wait times will vary depending on the province and territory, and the wait times for these programs could be days, weeks, or months, but this will depend on the program. Between 2014 and 2015, roughly over 150 thousand unique individuals accessed publicly funded substance abuse treatment services within the provinces, and roughly over 450 First Nations and Inuit youth accessed publicly funded substance abuse treatment services. The wait times for these programs do not have any national tracking, but most provinces, not all, do track what the wait times are like for drug abuse treatment, especially with the current opioid crisis. Within the provinces, the majority of unique individuals who did seek out help for their own addiction was around 90 percent between 2014 and 2015, and the remainders were that seeking help for a friend. Within this percentage, over 60 percent was male and roughly over 30 percent was female, and the average age was between 25 and 34.

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What contributed to wait times at drug treatment facilities?

There are many contributing factors that cause wait times for publicly funded programs, even some private drug treatment services. The recent opioid crisis within Canada has caused publicly funded programs to become regularly always at capacity, which was a problem before, but recently, wait times for some of the publicly funded services has been getting longer in recent years. For example, in Manitoba and Ontario, the wait time for publicly funded drug treatment services is on average 52 days in Manitoba, and 42 days in Ontario. In many cases, this can mean life or death for an addict, and unfortunately, there is simply just not enough beds to accommodate the need for treatment through the public system. Each year, billions of dollars are spent on healthcare in Canada, but merely 7% of this is allocated for mental health, with only a portion that is being set aside to treat addiction. For example, in Ontario, the province spends close to one billion annually for mental health and addictions, but only roughly 13 percent of this is specifically spent to treat addictions. The primary problem that does contribute to lengthy wait times is funding in the public system, and funds that are allocated for the treatment of a substance abuse disorder. The recent opioid epidemic in the country has placed a greater need for treatment, and most provincial governments are realizing that more has to be done to ensure public services are there to help treat addiction.

What can a family do to overcome the problem with wait lists or wait times?

When an addict or a family is searching for a drug or alcohol treatment program, they will often start with local services, and in most cases, will be told that there are waiting times or a wait list. This is because most local services, are publicly funded programs, such as detox, inpatient, or outpatient treatment. More often than the not, the addict or the family will have to call into the facility each day to see if there is a bed available or a spot. Most publicly funded drug treatment programs will use this method, instead of an actual list, because addiction does not make a person very reliable. The only way to overcome this problem with public services is persistence; this can involve getting a referral from a family doctor, visiting the programs in person, calling the facility every day, or trying to find something in the in-term such as a detox, outpatient services, or 12-step meetings. There is a greater need in Canada for publicly funded drug and alcohol treatment, and most provinces are dedicating more funding for this. Within the private sector, there will not typically be waiting times or wait lists, but the program will come at a cost. Private drug and alcohol treatment centers are not always affordable for every Canadian seeking help for drug addiction. However, most private drug and alcohol treatment services will provide different financial options to help people be able to afford treatment, and it is important to also contact these programs and find out what can be done. Do not simply shut the door on private drug and alcohol treatment, contact the programs in the province, and even in the other provinces, keep all options open.