With a rise in overdoses due to the toxic drug supply in the Fraser Valley, Fraser Health is providing low-barrier access for people seeking support for substance use in these communities.
Since it opened late last year, the Rapid Access to Addiction Care (RAAC) clinic in Fraser East has helped connect more than 600 people to the supports they need to address their substance use.
"People who use substances need access to care, where and when they are ready," said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "With this new addictions medicine clinic, more people will have access to urgently needed help in Fraser East and the surrounding communities.”
RAAC clinics provide low-barrier access to addiction medicine. After an initial consultation, clients may be placed on medication and/or guided to appropriate services. Addictions staff, including physicians, nurses, clinical support workers, social workers, group therapists and peer support workers, are on-hand at RAAC clinics to assess clients for any substance use. After initial stabilization, clients are connected to care providers in the community for ongoing treatment, monitoring and support.
People can seek assistance for a variety of substance use including: alcohol, benzodiazepines, nicotine, stimulants (cocaine, crystal methamphetamine), and opioids.
According to the B.C. Coroner’s Service, benzodiazepines were present in 54 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths in Fraser Health in 2021, along with other substances including fentanyl. Benzodiazepines slow the central nervous system and do not respond to fast-acting Naloxone that can reverse overdoses.
For clients without a regular addiction care provider, RAAC clinics will assist in linking them to one so they can continue with their care plan. RAAC clinics also provide clients with harm reduction supplies, including safe sharps disposal, as well as training and distribution of Take Home Naloxone.
RAAC clinics accept referrals from community providers, physicians, nurses, and social workers, and people can also drop in without an appointment or referral. In most cases, people can start on medication immediately.
“RAAC is a low-barrier entry point into addiction medicine services,” says Dr. Sharon Vipler, medical director for Fraser Health’s RAAC clinics. “People don’t need a diagnosis when they walk in. Our teams provide equitable, non-judgmental, evidence-based care tailored to an individual’s substance use needs.”
The Fraser East RAAC is open weekdays from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at Chilliwack General Hospital and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Mission Community Health Centre. Additional RAAC clinics are located in New Westminster (Fraser North) and Surrey (Fraser South).
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