Canada is currently experiencing a national crisis, and no, it’s not COVID-19.
From January 2016 to June 2021, there have been over 24,000 deaths due to opioid toxicity in Canada. CTV reports that 40% of those deaths occurred during the pandemic, and while people have returned to work and masks are a rare find, the opioid crisis is affecting Canadians to this day.
“There has been a noticeable increase in both mental health crises as well as the number of clients who are using opioids,” says Laura Campbell, the Health and Wellness Manager at The Mustard Seed in Calgary.
“Many [of our] clients are looking for supports to recover from opioid dependency as the crisis expands. Further, the supports in Calgary are limited and not meeting the service demand, creating long wait times.”
The Mustard Seed and Calgary Homeless Foundation have partnered to address this through The Mustard Seed’s Recovery Program. This six-week program offers support to those affected by the opioid crisis or other addictions while also providing participants with housing services and the resources to find stable housing after they graduate.
The Recovery Program is a recovery and transitional housing program at The Mustard Seed Health and Wellness Centre in downtown Calgary. Funded by Calgary Homeless Foundation, this program supports participants as they work towards recovery, builds a network of support, and offers assistance as they obtain appropriate housing solutions following graduation.
“There has been an increased need for recovery transitional housing that has become more apparent since the pandemic,” says Alexia, the Health and Wellness Recovery Supervisor for The Mustard Seed. “The opioid crisis has affected individuals in every level of socioeconomic status. However, there are few recovery programs in Calgary that target transient or homeless individuals.”
The National Health Care for the Homeless Council (NHCHC) writes that, “Housing is a crucial social determinant of health and a lack of housing, or being unstably housed, is associated with mental health concerns, physical health problems, trauma, greater mortality rates, and substance use disorders.”
They also note that, “Individuals who are unstably housed are at an increased risk of experiencing opioid use and overdoses.”
Without a form of housing support, addictions counselling for those experiencing homelessness will not have the same results. The Recovery Program provides clients with the stability they need to work towards overcoming addiction.
“The Mustard Seed’s Recovery Program focuses on building skills such as cooking, budgeting, relapse prevention, social/ communal living skills and supporting clients with understanding of trauma and providing counselling supports,” says Campbell.
“We have connected our clients to long-term/post program community-based supports such as mental health supports (through RAAM), Physical health supports (through doctors at TMS Wellness Centre), and culturally appropriate supports, among others."
The need for programs like this has increased over the last few years. In 2020, CTV reported that the toxic overdose death rate rose 146% from 2019 and was one of the worst years for opioid toxicity deaths since 2016. The Mustard Seed and the Calgary Homeless Foundation are working together to change this direction of overdoses and substance abuse among those experiencing homelessness and poverty in our city. Thanks to the help of The Calgary Homeless Foundation, this new program will offer the support, and the housing, our guests need to start a new chapter in their lives.