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Clinics offering non-judgmental access to addiction care in Chilliwack, Mission

‘People don’t need a diagnosis when they walk in,’ says Fraser Health rep about low-barrier clinics
The Fraser East Rapid Access to Addiction Care Clinic (RAAC) team: Vanda Gillon, Maureen BirkBliault, Kathy French, Maria LopesCapobianco, Carmen Baker, Laura Rhodes, and Sandy Wilson. (Fraser Health)

With out-of-control overdose numbers still rising due to a toxic drug supply, Fraser Health has rolled out addiction services to people where they’re at in Chilliwack and Mission.

The Fraser East Rapid Access to Addiction Care (RAAC) clinic opened without any fanfare last July in Chilliwack General Hospital, but the team at that site, together with the one at the Mission Community Health Centre, have already helped more than 600 people across the Fraser East region.

“People who use substances need access to care, where and when they are ready,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of mental health and addictions in a March 22 release. “With these new addictions medicine clinics, more people will have access to urgently needed help in Fraser East and the surrounding communities.”

It’s called “low barrier” because after an initial consultation, most people coming through the door can be prescribed addiction medications right away, as well follow-up care like being connected to treatment, monitoring and support services.

“RAAC is a low-barrier entry point into addiction medicine services,” said Dr. Sharon Vipler, medical director for Fraser Health’s RAAC clinics. “People don’t need a diagnosis when they walk in. Our teams provide equitable, non-judgmental, evidence-based care tailored to an individual’s substance use needs.”

Clinic staff, like doctors, nurses, social workers, group therapists and peer support workers can assess those seeking help with substances ranging from alcohol, benzodiazepines, nicotine, cocaine, meth, and opioids.

The type of drugs known as benzodiazepines can slow the central nervous system down to the point of blackout. They don’t tend to respond well to fast-acting Naloxone, and according to the B.C. Coroners Service, benzodiazepines were present in 54 per cent of illicit drug toxicity deaths in Fraser Health in 2021, along with fentanyl.

For those without a regular addiction care provider, RAAC clinics can connect them to one. These clinics also hand out harm reduction supplies, including safe sharps disposal containers, and provide training to use the naloxone kits.

The RAAC clinics accept referrals from community providers, physicians, nurses, and social workers, and people can also drop in without an appointment or referral.

The Fraser East RAAC clinic is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays at Chilliwack General Hospital and 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at Mission Community Health Centre. Other RAAC clinics are located in New Westminster and Surrey.

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Jennifer Feinberg

About the Author: Jennifer Feinberg

I have been a Chilliwack Progress reporter for 20+ years, covering the arts, city hall, as well as Indigenous, and climate change stories.
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