September 24, 2018

Winnipeg
8° C, Overcast

Full Forecast

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

Booze program for alcoholics

Managed drinking helps chronic users, advocates say

Main Street Project executive director Lisa Goss says a managed-alcohol program targets chronic abusers, for whom there are few options.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES

Main Street Project executive director Lisa Goss says a managed-alcohol program targets chronic abusers, for whom there are few options.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/3/2014 (1655 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you were to give Lisa Goss a magic wand, the executive director of Winnipeg's Main Street Project has already envisioned her first wish.

A place where chronic alcohol abusers, virtually all homeless, could be supplied a managed amount of booze under staff supervision. It's called a managed-alcohol-reduction program, and Goss believes it's overdue for Winnipeg's Main Street population.

"A lot of our homeless community use," Goss said. "So if you're in that place, you're spending your money, your EI, whatever your income is on alcohol. We have people that are elderly, that need assisted living or a group home or managed centre who need to use in a supportive environment. So they're binge-drinking (less). There are (fewer of them) going into the public intoxicated and risk getting hit by a car and being injured.

"When people binge-drink, it's harder on their liver, their body, their health," Goss added. "People, when they're intoxicated, take more risks than they usually do. That leads to more interactions with police."

Get the full story.
No credit card required. Cancel anytime.

Join free for 60 days

After that, pay as little as $0.99 per month for the best local news coverage in Manitoba.

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Join free for 60 days

 

Already a subscriber?

Log in

Subscribers Log in below to continue reading,
not a subscriber? Create an account to start a 60 day free trial.

Log in Create your account

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

Your free trial has come to an end.

We hope you have enjoyed your trial! To continue reading, we recommend our Read Now Pay Later membership. Simply add a form of payment and pay only 27¢ per article.

For unlimited access to the best local, national, and international news and much more, try an All Access Digital subscription:

Thank you for supporting the journalism that our community needs!

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Mon to Sat Delivery

Pay

$34.36

per month

  • Includes all benefits of All Access Digital
  • 6-day delivery of our award-winning newspaper
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

We hope you have enjoyed your free trial!

To continue reading, select a plan below:

Read Now Pay Later

Pay

27¢

per article

  • Commitment-free
  • Cancel anytime
  • Only pay for what you read
  • Refunds available
Continue

All Access Digital

Introductory pricing*

99¢

per month

  • Unlimited online reading and commenting
  • Daily newspaper replica e-Edition
  • News Break - our award-winning iOS app
  • Exclusive perks & discounts
Continue

*Introductory pricing schedule for 12 month: $0.99/month plus tax for first 3 months, $5.99/month for months 4 - 6, $10.99/month for months 7 - 9, $13.99/month for months 10 - 12. Standard All Access Digital rate of $16.99/month begins after first year.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 13/3/2014 (1655 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If you were to give Lisa Goss a magic wand, the executive director of Winnipeg's Main Street Project has already envisioned her first wish.

A place where chronic alcohol abusers, virtually all homeless, could be supplied a managed amount of booze under staff supervision. It's called a managed-alcohol-reduction program, and Goss believes it's overdue for Winnipeg's Main Street population.

"A lot of our homeless community use," Goss said. "So if you're in that place, you're spending your money, your EI, whatever your income is on alcohol. We have people that are elderly, that need assisted living or a group home or managed centre who need to use in a supportive environment. So they're binge-drinking (less). There are (fewer of them) going into the public intoxicated and risk getting hit by a car and being injured.

"When people binge-drink, it's harder on their liver, their body, their health," Goss added. "People, when they're intoxicated, take more risks than they usually do. That leads to more interactions with police."

Similar programs exist in cities such as Ottawa, Toronto and Vancouver. But not Winnipeg.

'People, when they're intoxicated, take more risks than they usually do. That leads to more interactions with police' —Lisa Goss, executive director of Winnipeg's Main Street Project, on why she believes a managed-alcohol program for chronic abusers is long overdue

In Thunder Bay, Ont., a managed-alcohol program was founded at Shelter House in 2012. Just this week, a study by the Centre for Addictions Research at the University of Victoria found the Thunder Bay model reduced the number of police interactions and hospital admissions from 40 to 80 per cent for 18 participants. (Compared with another 20 individuals who were not in the program.)

Participants were also given stable housing, meals and staff counselling.

At Shelter House, alcohol — typically six ounces of wine — was provided every 90 minutes from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Many of the participants had a history of abusing substances other than conventional alcohol, such as hand sanitizer, rubbing alcohol, mouthwash or hairspray.

"People were dying on the street of long-term health problems, of violence," Patty Hajdu, director of Shelter House, told the Free Press, in explaining how the project was established.

Shelter House has an annual operating budget of $500,000, funded by all three levels of government. Hajdu acknowledged such programs are controversial, both on a financial and ideological level.

But she added, "The tax-dollar argument is easily defeated."

The program in Thunder Bay costs about $31,000 per individual, she said, for the centre's 15 clients. The cost of homeless individuals with the same chronic abuse issues on social services can run an average of $131,000 per person, when costs for hospital admissions, police and criminal involvement, jail cells and shelters are tallied.

"It's very controversial, and that's why we wanted to take a good, hard look at the data," University of Victoria researcher Dr. Tim Stockwell told The Canadian Press.

Hajdu said such programs are reserved for the most hardened, chronic abusers, a population that would be around 40 in Thunder Bay. But improvement can be seen in even the most dire cases, she said.

"You can't really have a conversation with them because they're so sick," Hajdu said. "And within a couple weeks they come out of their shell. They start talking."

Goss said the program identifies addicts who can suffer through life-threatening withdrawals during detox.

Under a managed-alcohol system, "Instead of constantly drinking... they're meeting the needs of that withdrawal so they can function better," Goss said.

"It's about reaching people where they're at," she added. "When you're trying to push them along this continuum where they're not there or can never be there... some of the clients who end up clogging the system are people who are in more need of physical help. There isn't a lot of space in personal care homes."

Richard Walls, who operates the Red Road Lodge, a transitional homeless shelter on Main Street, said "there's a huge need for it (a managed-alcohol facility) and we'd be very supportive of it." At the same time, Walls admits to being a "little skeptical" if such a project could land government funding.

"It's an interesting experiment," Walls added. "But where do you stop and start? It's a bottomless pit."

Hajdu understands the limits of public funding, but she said it's a pay-now or pay-later scenario. "I'm hoping as a society we can see harm reduction has its place," she said.

"I think the more evidence we have, the more we can prove it's a fiscally responsible approach, as well as a humane one."

randy.turner@freepress.mb.ca

Randy Turner

Randy Turner
Reporter

Randy Turner has spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he’s got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.

Read full biography

Advertisement

Advertise With Us

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective January 2015.