Why I Support Managed Alcohol Programs

photo.JPGI have to start this post by first asking you all to keep an open mind. I understand often the harm reduction model is not easy to accept. I, myself, do not believe I would have found sobriety in such a program, but I was lucky. By the time I hit the streets I had gone through a detox. Some people are not so lucky and drugs and alcohol have complete control over them.

Trying to help a homeless friend in Los Angeles is what changed my mind, and why I requested to visit such a facility.  My friend has been homeless since his mother died.  After years of trying to drinking his pain away there is not much of my friend left.  Alcohol has completely taken over his life. His liver is damaged so much there are sores on his leg. The sores are so bad he cannot wear pants. He ties bandannas around his leg so the sores are not visible. Any normal person would have stopped drinking. But my homeless friend cannot stop on his own. He will die homeless because Los Angeles has yet to adopt the harm reduction model. Any absence based program WILL NOT WORK for my friend. It breaks my heart!

This week I visited an a managed alcohol program in Ottawa, Canada. The Oaks Residence is a unique partnership between the Shepherds of Good Hope, Inner City Health and Canadian Mental Health Association. Residents are given an hourly “dose” of alcohol in a clean and safe supervised environment. At first I was a little shocked walking in. All the residents were carrying cups, which I knew were filled with booze. But as I started to watch them I saw something gorgeous. The people who use and need this type program are the worst of the worst, like my friend in Los Angeles. They would be outside drinking anyway, and drinking Listerine and hand sanitizer. They would be DYING on the streets. Here, everyone was clean, and healthy, and safe. They were inside and not a burden to public safety issues. I was very impressed with the community there. What impressed me the most is I saw lives being saved (and money too).

This interview is with Joe, and manager at Shepherds of Good Hope. What follows is a story one of the clients wrote, and Billy ‘insisted’ I read it. Please watch this video with an open mind then read Billy’s story. Supporting managed alcohol treatment is a very good thing and we need more programs like this!

Hi, My name is Bill. I’ve come from the States to Canada. I’ve lived a rough life by my own choice. I’m nearly 39 years old. After all the street lives I’ve lived, I ended up finally, at The Oaks which has changed my mind about the government. I can’t believe they allow a piece of heaven for the lost. I’m an alcoholic in serious proportions and I need help physically and mentally. The Oaks and MAP and the WET program have provided the extreme positive and comfortable environment available to the public.

This program is based from the downtown core. -Not good-and moved to the West end of Ottawa away from the mess. By mess I mean alcohol, beer, drugs, crime, prostitution, anger, frustration, dependency, hunger, violence, police brutality and bothersomeness. Mainly I mean for everyone, basically stress.

At the Oaks I am a man who can think, concentrate, focus, make plans for the future, reflect on the past and myself. One day I may write a book reflecting on the things I’ve done and seen and probably sell it to High Schools to scare them straight. But for now, I’ll try to be a man trying to figure out a plan for my life. The World must thank the Inner City Staff for their dedication and care for all the ailments that alcoholics and addicts suffer from.

Bill T.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=569266595 Barbara Healey

    I think this is an amazing program and has a good chance of working,Society  needs to change its way of thinking,and approach things differently,this is 2011,not 1940,we have to stop reacting to things like we;re still living in the dark ages,and compassion and empathy combined with spiritialality work better then the tough love.

  • Jason

    As a recovering alcoholic who adheres to abstinence I too feel like one of the lucky ones, that is as someone who no longer carries the burden of needing alcohol in my life at the expense of everything else.  That said, as they say in the program of AA “there are such unfortunates” who cannot adhere to such a program but to me that doesn’t mean we disregard their most basic human needs, that being food, shelter, health care, and also community, all of which the Shepherds of Good Hope provides to some of the most hardest to serve street entrenched alcoholics in the city of Ottawa.  I will also add that a community that makes an effort to care for its weakest members creates a stronger society for us all.  It is evident that Shepherds is achieving this by keeping its clients out of institutions such as hospitals and prisons by providing for clients in its own community-based way.  Whether one agrees with the harm reduction model or not this is better for all of us, at the very least as taxpayers.

  • http://twitter.com/HomelessGirl1 Homeless Girl

    We believe that because somebody has messed up their lives in the past to get better must be also hard and a punishment for what they did, that’s why society finds it hard to accept programs like this because they want some sort of “justice” or retribution. I support that as well Mark and I think it’s important to speak out for what you believe in