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Substance Use

Where science meets compassion

St. Paul’s Hospital sits on the frontline of the toxic drug crisis.

Each year, we treat thousands of patients for problematic substance use. This is rarely a person’s only health concern. Fully 70% of the mental health patients treated at St. Paul’s Hospital also have a substance use disorder. And in just the last five years, visits related to mental health and substance use have increased by 76%.

For people in crisis, accessing the right care when they need it can be extremely challenging. So we meet our patients where they are – at St. Paul’s and in the community. We ensure they feel welcomed with culturally-appropriate, trauma-informed care. And we support them in their journey of recovery.

For many patients, the first stop is St. Paul’s Teck Emergency Centre. Because one size does not fit all for anyone in the emergency department, we triage and treat substance use patients with a variety of specialized programs and services.

  • Mental Health, Urban Health, and Substance Use teams for specialized inpatient care and outreach in the community.
  • Rapid Access Addiction Center (RAAC) for low-barrier outpatient services.
  • The HUB for care in a private setting outside the ED.
  • Transitional Care Centre for a bridge between care at St. Paul’s and care in the community.

With the support of our donors, we are pioneering a new model of care for British Columbians living with substance use disorders. A model that blends evidence-based strategies, research, harm-reduction, education, and compassion.

Road to Recovery

The Diamond Foundation’s $20 million gift and the Ronald S. Roadburg Foundation’s $9 million gift to St. Paul’s Foundation will fund development of the brand-new Road to Recovery at St. Paul’s Hospital, a first-in-Canada model of care that will cut weeks on waitlists and support patients to move through a full spectrum of treatment services all in one location.

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What do we want? Innovative research and treatment initiatives. When do we want them? Now!

One in five Canadians – more than six million people – are affected by substance use and its related harms.

That’s why we are proud to support the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU): a world-class research facility at the forefront of the toxic drug crisis.

Their clinician-scientists lead innovative research programs, develop education and training guidelines, and provide clinical care guidance to health care providers. Here are just a few highlights of the fundamental work our donors support:

  • The largest addiction medicine fellowship in North America. To date, 112 doctors, nurses, nurse practitioners, social workers, pharmacists, and researchers have graduated with specialized training in detox, in-patient addiction care, residential treatment, complex pain, and the complex physical and mental health issues that can accompany substance use.
  • Free, online certification program in addiction care and treatment to train front line care workers across BC (and anyone else who is interested) to care for people who use alcohol, tobacco, stimulants, cannabis, and opioids. Since the program started in 2019, more than 23,000 people have registered for the course and almost 5,000 have received their certificate.[1]
  • A 24/7 clinician support line to provide fast, accurate guidance for caregivers in acute, community, and emergency department settings across BC. In its first year, the line received almost 600 calls.

Your gift is helping to pioneer compassionate, low-barrier services that support patients across the province with convenient drop-in access, wraparound services, and transitional care.

There’s still much to do. But thanks to your generosity, there is hope.

Substance use is never just about the drugs. Donors are unsung heroes of this critical work.

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“Recovery isn’t just about stopping the drugs. It’s about changing your life and giving yourself permission to dream again.”

Gary L, husband, step-dad, community activist, former patient

Rapid access to care

The Rapid Access Addiction Clinic (RAAC) at St. Paul’s has provided walk-up addiction care to more than 9,000 patients since opening its doors in 2016.

Each week, the clinic welcomes some 40 new patients. About 70% come to us seeking help to manage their opioid use disorder.

To date, more than 4,300 patients have started on opioid agonist treatment (often called OAT) using medicines such as suboxone or methadone to treat addiction, reduce drug-related harms, and support long-term recovery.

And, more than 3,200 patients have been transitioned to community-based providers for ongoing care closer to home.

Your gift supports low-barrier, culturally-safe, evidence-based care when people need it most.

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“We’re changing the labels around addiction, mental health, and other issues like poverty and homelessness. And we’re removing barriers that patients experience in accessing the help they need to lead fully functioning lives – and that’s our ultimate goal.”

– Katherine MacPhee, mental health continuum of care social worker, St. Paul’s Hospital

You can help end stigma, lower barriers, and provide compassionate care for everyone.

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If you are interested in supporting mental health and substance use disorder work at St. Paul’s Hospital, please contact John Foster at or 604-790-4591 to learn more.