Indifference, not Harm Reduction, is the Real Culprit in Cuts to Treatment
A Vancouver Province article, Harm Reduction Just Keeps Addicts Enslaved, blames harm reduction for cuts in funding to treatment. It’s the classic harm reduction vs. abstinence debate. Was harm reduction responsible for the recent closure of Kelowna’s Crossroads Treatment Centre? Probably not. A more likely scenario is a provincial government looking to cut spending without hurting their chances of getting re-elected in May. The BC Liberal party, like governments across North America, has long since learned that the voting public is largely indifferent to addiction treatment cuts.
A Perspective That Supports Addiction Treatment AND Harm Reduction
Perhaps Mr. Ferry and his supporters could find room for both treatment and harm reduction if they adopted a stages of change perspective, meaning that there is no good or bad intervention, only interventions that are best matched to an individual’s level of motivation.
Intervention Recommendations Based on Motivation
Motivation can be measured on a continuum from the unwilling to those ready to take action. This approach is well supported in addiction research, specifically the work of psychologists James Prochaska and Carlo Diclemente and their Transtheoretical Model of Change. So, for example, an unmotivated heroin addict who shares needles would probably be referred to harm reduction while an individual desperate to keep his job and marriage intact would likely be referred to treatment.
Mr. Ferry needs to take a step back and get some perspective. The harm reduction community is not the enemy: the homeless, the mentally ill and the saints that keep them alive are hardly a force in politics. If they were, the Harper government and BC Liberals would be increasing, not cutting, services. The real story here is that the addiction community in BC is a house divided by ideology, fighting over the table scraps at the healthcare banquet table. Mr. Ferry and harm reduction opponents like him are proving once more the old adage: united we stand, divided we fall.
By Daniel Jordan, Director, Sunshine Coast Health Center