Ottawa's opioid treatment options a 'puzzle,' say experts

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Ottawa's opioid treatment options a 'puzzle,' say experts

Parents whose teenagers are abusing opioids have to jump through too many hoops to get help, according to an Ottawa health policy expert.

Navigating the health-care system is no easy feat at the best of times, but for parents seeking addictions help for a teenager it's "a bit of a puzzle," said Douglas Angus, professor emeritus at the University of Ottawa's Telfer School of Management.

"We have so many silos, and there's … very few bridges to connect those silos … and when you get situations like the opioid crisis, I think it just sort of exemplifies even further the difficulties," he said.

Parents looking for answers

Hundreds of parents have packed opioid information meetings, including one Wednesday night at Earl of March Secondary School in Kanata.

Concerns over drug use have been growing after the recent deaths of two Kanata teens, both from apparent overdoses.

Angus said he can empathize with parents who don't know which treatment options are the most appropriate for their child.

"I mean, can you imagine if you didn't have a bus schedule, and you had no idea where the buses were going to be stopping, what time they were going to be coming? It would be really impossible to sort of navigate your way around the transportation system," he said.

People should take advantage of resources on Ottawa Public Health's website or contact their family physician, he said.

But it would also be beneficial for health officials in the city to develop a checklist or road map to help parents navigate their way through the system, he said.

'So many different agencies'

Knowing which treatment option is most appropriate can be tricky, according to Catherine Hacksel of the Ottawa Drug Users Advocacy League.

"That's a hard question to answer because there are so many different agencies that offer different things, and they offer different philosophies about how to support people," Hacksel said.

"If it's a young person that you want — like under the age of 24 — that you want to support, I usually refer people to Youth Services Bureau. That's my first call," she said.

Hacksel said the bureau will act as a facilitator, pointing families in the right direction.

She also suggests contacting Ottawa Addictions Access and Referral Services, which can help people with addictions to find their way through the system.

Ottawa Public Health has a lengthy list of other local resources that can be found on their website.