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Rising Like A Phoenix In British Columbia

This drug and alcohol recovery and education program helps participants exit the cycle of addiction…

The Phoenix Drug & Alcohol Recovery and Education Society is a not-for-profit based in Surrey, BC, that helps participants exit the cycle of addiction and homelessness. Launched in 1989, the Society has grown from an idea to a multi-faceted, integrated service provider that offers a variety of programs and support services, helping residents and program participants achieve positive outcomes in their lives.

We recently sat down with the organization to find out more about their community-based projects that meet people where they are at.

Your organization experienced a rebirth recently. How did this come about, and why is it important to work with partners in the community?
In April 2020, the Phoenix Society merged with Positive Living Fraser Valley Society based out of Abbotsford. Our respective boards saw that with this collaboration our clients would have the opportunity to enter one of the service locations in Abbotsford or Surrey, and be connected to an extensive continuum of services that would start them on their journey to stabilization, treatment, recovery and wellness, and help lessen the harms caused by substance use or their HIV/HCV (hepatitis C) or other sexually transmitted blood-borne infections (STBBI) diagnosis through peer engagement, harm reduction and outreach.

What is the Abbotsford Community Hub Centre? What kind of impact does it have?
The Abbotsford Community Hub Centre is a community partnership that provides people-centred care in a welcoming environment for those experiencing health and social challenges, due primarily to poverty, homelessness, substance use, mental health issues and addiction. It is a collaboration of stakeholders and community organizations committed to addressing the needs of vulnerable populations in the Fraser East area of British Columbia.

While the Hub has been operating for over two years, our Positive Living program has been operating for over 14 years. Our services include primary health care, pharmacy services, specialized STBBI supports and access to on-site medical care, harm reduction supplies and overdose prevention services. A food bank provides nutritional support to those who are HIV+ or living with viral hepatitis, with hampers delivered twice monthly. A long-awaited iOAT (injectable opioid agonist treatment) clinic is now open out of the PARC (Prevention Assessment Referral Drop In Centre).

How has the Phoenix Society’s “MORE Program” helped respond to the unique challenges of COVID-19?
Thanks to incredible support from partners such as ViiV Healthcare, for over five years the Phoenix Society has employed a medical outreach worker whose main role is to identify those needing connections to care within the Fraser East region. This position tracks people’s appointments and meets them at their homes, or goes into encampments, to provide transportation to medical and other appointments to ensure connections to care are maintained.

When COVID-19 first hit, although we had to adjust services slightly, we were able to continue operation of the MORE program. We didn’t slow down for any period of time, continuing to meet with clients and offer services.

COVID-19 has created such isolation, as many of the services our clients access outside of the Phoenix Society have shut down. At the start of the pandemic, we observed a spike in mental health challenges with our population. Services many were familiar with and accessing shut down overnight. For many, this increased the sense of stigma and isolation they were already experiencing from their diagnosis.

A lot of your programming is based on patient-led decision-making and patient-led care. Why is this important?
We try to approach wellness from an emotional, mental, social and spiritual perspective. By starting with the foundation of communication and empathy, we focus on building core relationships with our clients. Only from here can we start individualized care and treatment plans.

The MORE worker at the Phoenix Society works as a liaison between a team of nurse practitioners, peers, specialists and pharmacists to provide collaborative care. By forging a team using patient-centred care, we are able to coordinate and make services accessible when typically barriers would affect their ability to maintain/adhere to care and drug plans. We provide emotional support to help alleviate anxiety and fear, which we feel is just as important as dealing with the “illness” itself.

What is the link between empowering the community and optimizing treatment for each person?
The link lies in the de-stigmatization of medical conditions like blood-borne illnesses. Well-educated communities that are equipped with knowledge surrounding stigmatized medical conditions will lessen the marginalization of infected individuals. Reduction of stigma leads to an increased willingness among those affected with blood-borne illnesses to seek treatment. We as a community are responsible to be informed and to lessen our own judgments.

Not only will this approach help bring awareness and acceptance to issues such as blood-borne infections, it will lessen the secondary effects of living with such illnesses, including mental health issues, isolation, substance misuse, poverty, food insecurity and precarious housing. The battle is not just a medical one, but also requires a community approach.

*You can find out more about Phoenix Society and their sustainable solutions at

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