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Advocates in Brandon mark Recovery Day, call for more addictions resources

Southwestern Manitoba’s biggest city is using Recovery Day to celebrate healing from substance use and mental health disorders by putting a face to those who often face stigma for their addictions.

Organizer Dee Taylor-John says the Brandon Recovery Day celebrations at the Riverbank Discovery Centre Saturday honoured people’s recovery journeys.

“Recovery is possible I myself as somebody that really struggled with opiate use disorder … like you can be here too. It’s possible,” Taylor-John says. 

But Taylor-John said those looking to recover from substance use need access to different paths to sobriety. In many cases, people with substance use disorders can face barriers when it comes to accessing programs and resources that work for them.

A group of women play indigenous drums while singing.
A group sings and drums marking the start of Recovery Day Brandon. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

They say this makes it critical for the government to support grassroots initiatives in the community centred on healing addictions, she says.

“We need more programming, more supported programming through our governments and just places where people can go,” Taylor-John said. “For me in particular, one place didn’t work for me, so I went to another and I went to another until it fit right.”

Simone Dixon, Westman Families of Addicts president, says substance use is increasing and these disorders are often tied to poverty, mental health and precarious housing. These complexities make access to multiple resources and support essential.

Several years ago, Dixon’s daughter Chantelle was in active addiction. She was working and living on her own, but it escalated to the point of psychosis. 

A group of people form a large circle.
People gather for an opening prayer at Recovery Day Brandon. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

“All of a sudden … she spiralled down really, really, really quickly. I had no resources. I didn’t know where to go. I didn’t know anything really about addictions. I did not know the signs of addiction,” Dixon said.

“I had that shame. I didn’t want the community to know that this was happening and I felt that this group [Westman Families of Addicts] really was open.”

It is a challenging situation trying to get your child help because you need to get them immediately, Dixon said. If help isn’t immediately available, people can risk relapsing.

Dixon was able to get her daughter help in Winnipeg and she has been in recovery for the past three years as of October.

She says in Brandon, the community needs resources to help people and families facing substance use disorders because that help is not always immediately available.

Changes needed in Brandon

Brandon and the surrounding communities need more staff, money and to change the language around substance use and recovery, Taylor-John said.

The provincial election could lead to some positive changes in more community-based programming and collaboration, Taylor-John said. 

A women wearing glasses.
Simone Dixon, president of Westman Families of Addicts, says more diverse resources are needed in Brandon to help people heal from addiction. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

“We need to individualize people and not label them with just simple health-care conditions,” Taylor-John said. “Politicians can support the community-driven initiatives. … The community knows what we need. We need more capacity building within our communities and we need the support from politicians.”

Manitoba’s Progressive Conservatives said in a statement that its government has funded more than 1,600 addiction treatment spaces.

In June the government announced $4.7 million for enhanced addiction programming in rural and northern Manitoba. Ongoing provincial funding of $600,000 will sustain six community non-medical withdrawal management beds in Brandon previously supported by federal funding, the government said.

One major topic Dixon wants to see addressed is building the Community Wellness Collaborative’s Sobering Centre which received provincial funding in 2021.

“Let’s do this next step,” Dixon said. “We need those resources. It can’t be just one step … We get them off the street for five days and then they’re back on the street and they’re they have to fend for themselves.”

A man plays an Indigenous drum.
Sam Jackson drums at Recovery Day Brandon. (Chelsea Kemp/CBC)

NDP candidate for Brandon East Glen Simmard said in a statement that the current government has failed to see the Sobering Centre built — calling it a “shameful legacy.”

He says the Manitoba NDP will get the facility built in Brandon.

“We’ve already made a strong commitment to hiring more mental health workers to give people the support they need and take the burden off law enforcement,” Simmard said.

The Liberal Party has not yet responded to CBC’s request for comment.

Dixon says at the next Westman Families of Addicts meeting they are hoping to have all political parties present to talk about what they’re doing in the community, what people are facing and let group members ask some questions.

“What money, resources … what things are coming down the pipeline, what things can we do, whether it’s here in Brandon, in the province itself?” Dixon said.

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