April 22nd, 2024

Blood Tribe doctor says comprehensive strategy required for addiction crisis

By Tim Kalinowski on June 15, 2021.

Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, Senior Medical Director, Provincial Indigenous Wellness Core, at Alberta Health Services speaks during a livestream session of the Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

The Southern Alberta Council on Public Affairs welcomed Dr. Esther Tailfeathers, Senior Medical Director, Provincial Indigenous Wellness Core, at Alberta Health Services, to a special session of its YouTube livestream speaker series on Monday.
Tailfeathers spoke about the importance of a comprehensive strategy to address the opioid and addiction crisis on the Blood Tribe reserve, and elsewhere, which includes harm reduction and safe supply.
Tailfeathers called abstinence based treatment ideals the “golden place” where all recovering addicts eventually want to get to, but felt it just doesn’t work for every person who is addicted to drugs to get there all at once and right away.
“The golden place is to be completely abstinent, but through our experience we know that many people cannot go from A to D, and walk out and be completely healthy,” she explained. “We know from experience, especially with detox, is people may try two or three times before you really actually begin to heal. And they do need lots of support: family support or a partner who is very supportive. We know abstinence based treatment has very high expectations of people. And one of the things that is very human is a feeling of failure when you cannot achieve what other people expect of you.”
Tailfeathers said alternatives like opioid agonist therapy have had a better success rate for individuals on the Blood Tribe reserve.
“Most of the treatment centres we sent our people to (originally) were abstinence based treatment, and they were not withdrawn enough, they were still sick, when they arrived at the abstinence based treatment centres,” she explained. “And as a result, many of them did not finish the course of the abstinence based treatment. Many returned to reserve and used at the dose they were using, or the amount they thought they were using, when they left. As a result, we had more deaths and more overdoses; so we recognized abstinence based treatment did not work for people. We had to start working on more humane ways of helping people to withdraw and also to be treated so they don’t feel like failures.”
Tailfeathers credited the establishment of Bringing the Spirit Home Detox Centre in Standoff as an important step toward helping prevent even more overdose deaths on the Blood Tribe, and getting individuals through their first stages of withdrawal before getting them on to an opioid replacement therapy regime, and then on into further treatment when they were ready to make that leap.
“I think the harm reduction treatment model is the most effective way of dealing with people,” Tailfeathers told SACPA attendees. “I think wrap around supports are very important, including housing alternatives. And for people to recognize addictions, like I said, are not from A to D. I think we need to have more trauma-informed care in the work we do with all people with addictions, not just Indigenous people with addictions.”
Tailfeathers also responded to questions about her thoughts on safe supply. She confirmed she supported both alcohol treatment therapy and safe supply in principle.
“I think a very supervised and safe drug supply would help decriminalize drugs,” she responded. “(That) would help because we would see less harm to the individual.”
Tailfeathers said she would like to see something like the Portugal approach potentially adopted in Canada when it comes to safe supply.
“Portugal has done a very good job of safe supply,” she explained, “and I really think in order to decrease the criminal element, and safely bring people to the possibility of going to detox, the possibility of getting into treatment, is to make it safer for them, and easier for them, to get the help they need.”

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pursuit diver

Doctor you would be advised to do more research on harm reduction and giving addicts more opioids to resolve the addiction issues. Since your job is with AHS I would advise you to look at the coroner’s reports over the last few years for Lethbridge and you will see that many of the fatal overdoses had some of the prescribed opioids that are given to addicts in their bloodstream at the time of death.
I would also direct you to BC, to the Vancouver DTES where this gong-show killing machine began 18 years ago! The four pillars of harm reduction have never been realized, and every year the number of fatal overdoses/numbers of addicts/numbers of homeless/crime have all climbed. It those figures have all climbed, how can a educated person Doctor who holds your position with AHS actually say it works? It is a failure!
Effective treatment programs that work, along with drug courts, target crime tactics by police and firm stance against drugs is the best way and has been proven in the US and won awards.
You cannot look overseas for answers! Canada and the US have different societal issues and Portugal cannot be used and an example!
Retired addiction counselors and even some active, voiced their concerns against giving addicts drugs and supplying all the materials to do drugs!
I think it is time we started looking at how our tax dollars are being spent on treatment programs, there must be better oversight! Money doesn’t grow on trees or fall out of the sky! It is not endless and we must invest in ‘effective’ programs with high success rates after 5 years. By high I mean over 80%!
What is your success rate?

Seth Anthony

Tailfeathers said she would like to see something like the Portugal approach potentially adopted in Canada when it comes to safe supply.
“Portugal has done a very good job of safe supply,” 

Portugal does not have a “safe supply”. Also, despite what many seem to think, drugs are still illegal in Portugal.


pursuit diver

Portugal is no great model! We do have some very good models in the US, but for some reason, everyone wants to look overseas, where they do not have the societal/ethnic issues Canada has.
Another AHS failure plan! Let’s blow more hard earned taxpayer dollars on another harm reduction plan, because Lethbridge taxpayers only blew over $25 million before some warriors for the taxpayers stood up and said enough, and shutdown the SCS! AHS stood behind the SCS right to the end!
Since the SCS was closed in September, Lethbridge fatal overdoses went down, the number of addicts, crime, and we are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, but it appears this AHS is not done burning up our tax dollars. The stats show what the people out on the protest lines knew all along!
Another fiasco just like moving the EMS dispatch to a central location!
We need to fire the AHS administration! AND the UCP!!!

Last edited 2 years ago by pursuit diver
pursuit diver

After watching this Blood Tribe doctor on the CTV news I have the best solution since the city of Lethbridge has seen a dramatic decrease in fatal overdoses.
Open a SCS site in Standoff and every other indigenous community since you love them so much and think they will resolve your issues. It is not our fault you didn’t raise your kids properly! I am really getting weary of hearing these brainwashed theories harm reduction works!
Keep your addicts in your communities and let them destroy them like they have ours!
One more great idea- Shut down the Lethbridge shelter/Alpha House and move it to the reserve!
We are tired of pouring millions into this failing system!