Goldcorp donation paves way for addiction medicine fellowship at St Paul’s Hospital
A new Vancouver program designed to train doctors in addiction medicine is set to be established next year, following a $5 million donation announced today (Sept 21).
At a news conference this morning, mining company Goldcorp announced $3 million to help establish a fellowship at St Paul’s Hospital that will train 20 fellows over five years in treating patients with addictions.
Dr. Evan Wood, who will be the head of the program, said it will “greatly expand” the number of certified addiction physicians.
“This fellowship will create specialist physicians who will be able to offer, for instance, early intervention for young people just fooling around with drugs before they get addicted,” he explained.
Wood is the co-director of the Addictions and Urban Health Research Initiative at the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS. He noted that typically when a patient is admitted to a teaching hospital in B.C. with anything other than drug or alcohol addiction, they will be seen by “a whole gaggle of physicians”. For patients with addiction issues, chances are there will be no addiction physician available.
“Even at St. Paul’s Hospital where there are addiction physicians, chances are they haven’t been through a standardized training program in addiction, and they would have had to go to the United States to get that training,” he said. “And most certainly, they wouldn’t have a gaggle of learners going with them and climbing the rungs and graduating from those programs.”
The new fellowship, which will be the first of its kind in Western Canada, is expected to launch in July 2013.
Another local program that offers health-care services for people with addictions received funding through today’s donation. Vancouver Coastal Health was given $2 million to support its Assertive Community Treatment Program.
The program consists of a 24-hour outreach service that supports people in the Downtown Eastside with severe mental illness and addiction with services including crisis assessment, psychiatric counselling, and substance abuse treatment. The team, which currently includes a psychiatrist, registered psychiatric nurses, a social worker, and an addictions specialist, will also include fellows from the addiction medicine program once it has launched.
“The program itself is very client-centred—we deal with individuals, we work with them, engage with them, developing individualized care plans with them, and we not only deal with their addiction issues and mental health issues, but just all the activities of their daily life, and how they can integrate better into the community,” said Anne McNabb, the director of mental health and addiction, inner city, with Vancouver Coastal Health.
Chuck Jeannes, the president and CEO of Goldcorp, noted funding for that program was based on a one-time grant that is set to run out.
“Our grant will allow that program to continue, and hopefully give us time to secure additional funds to make sure that the program continues indefinitely,” he said.
Jeannes said he has learned a lot after being personally impacted by addiction.
“I’ve learned that addiction is not a weakness, I’ve learned that it’s a disease,” he said. “I’ve learned that people don’t choose to become addicts, they don’t choose to throw away their jobs, alienate family members, create severe health problems and the things that go along with that. And so, the real simple answer, I believe, and it’s not simple of course, is that treatment is necessary.”
In 2010, a $10-million Goldcorp donation to Simon Fraser University caused some controversy. Some SFU students and staff, and activists urged the school to return the money to Goldcorp, which has been criticized for its mining activities in Latin America.