People struggling with chemical addictions in the Cariboo have the opportunity to lead better lives thanks to the efforts of two local physicians.
Since Dec. 8, 2014, Doctors Ivan Scrooby and Roland Engelbrecht have been operating Cornerstone Chemical Dependency Clinic in the city’s downtown.
The clinic, which is open from 10 a.m. to noon, Monday to Friday, has been busy. It is the only addictions clinic between Kamloops and Prince George.
“If we get another physician to join us we can extend the hours,” Scrooby said during an interview with the Tribune. “We both have a mixed practice already.”
Scrooby has been in Williams Lake for 13 years and Engelbrecht for two years.
They aren’t the first to offer medical addiction services in the community.
Up until November Dr. Prinsloo offered an addiction clinic out of the Yorston Medical Clinic and before him Dr. Gordon Hutchinson of 100 Mile offered a methadone clinic out of his practice in Williams Lake.
“We’re not the first, but this is the first designated facility created primarily for addiction services,” Scrooby said of the new clinic.
Both doctors said they are new to the addictions world, however, they have desire to help a group of the population they know is in need of help.
“When Doctor Prinsloo was leaving we had a lengthy discussion with him and decided to take over his practice,” Engelbrecht said. “We wanted to take it one step further and incorporate a mental health counsellor.”
Counselling is the fundamental success of helping patients find an alternative means of coping with stressful situations, Scrooby said.
“We want to offer more than a prescription and are trying to help people find life skills to help them be successful in daily life eventually without narcotics,” he said.
When a patient comes into the clinic for the first appointment, they either arrive on their own initiative or have been referred by a doctor.
“They’ll come in and do some paper work,” Scrooby explained. “We’ll have a discussion about ways we can help and find out if there are any other issues driving their addiction that we need to address.”
Part of the initial assessment involves determining how the patient has been using narcotics to determine what dose of methadone or suboxone they will need.
After the consultation, the patient is given a prescription.
The patient then takes the prescription to a pharmacy where the drug is administered each day by a trained pharmacist.
“Because it can be lethal, especially in the beginning, a pharmacist has to witness it being taken,” Scrooby said.
People accessing the clinic fit the description of all walks of life, the doctors said.
“Your patient who is dependent on narcotics is not just your person living on the street that we would like to believe, it could be anyone. It could be very high-functioning people as well,” Scrooby said.
People addicted to narcotics have to re-dose themselves every four to six hours because the effect of the drug wears off, Engelbrecht said. Addicts spend most of their day acquiring the money to buy the heroin or alternative narcotics, using the narcotics then recovering from the effect. Their 24-hour period is taken up by their addiction.
“At that point they are taking the heroin not to get sick,” Engelbrecht said. “They don’t take it to get high anymore.”
Opioid therapy stabilizes a person for a whole day, giving them an opportunity to find a job, proper housing, a healthy lifestyle.
“All of a sudden a person has 24 hours,” Scrooby said.
Success doesn’t necessarily mean patients will eventually no longer need the opioids, rather it means if a person can be re-integrated into society and is able to work and contribute.
Patients cannot be weaned off opioid therapy until they acquire the life skills and coping mechanisms, Scrooby said, adding the clinic does a lot of work providing counselling in regards to relapse prevention.
The sad statistic is that 25 per cent of people will relapse, Engelbrecht added.
In choosing the name Cornerstone and its accompanying logo featuring building blocks, the doctors said they wanted to create a clinic with a friendly environment where people would feel welcome.
“We wanted a name that would symbolize a sense of hope for people,” Scrooby said. “A cornerstone is a fundamental building block and we believe if one is able to build the blocks of their life back figuratively it gives you the option to have a normal life again.”