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DOWNTOWN EASTSIDE - More than 200 supporters of women's addiction programs at the Rainier Hotel took to the Vancouver streets today in a Right to Recovery Walk. They were protesting the end of funding for the on-site treatment program at the hotel, managed by PHS Community Services.
Federal funding has dried up and the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority has so far refused to step up to provide crucial funding to keep the program going at its current level. The staff and women at the 40-bed facility were told of the cuts by VCH on Nov. 28, only five days before they took efftect.
The marchers carried 40 "coffins" to symbolize the loss of services and walked from the Rainier to Vancouver Coastal Health offices on the South side of the Cambie Bridge. That was followed by visits to BC Liberal MLA's offices including Premier Christy Clark's.
The hotel says the Rainier "has seen more than 130 vulnerable women since it opened, reaching a vulnerable group of women failed by traditional treatment, engages them in treatment and helps them develop tools to control addiction. It stabilizes housing while reducing both injection and non-injection drug use and risk behaviors (such as those associated with the survival sex trade). "
According to Vancouver Coastal Health, the treatment won't be cut exactly, it will be "reallocated." But their explanation that "on-site staff will be replaced by a wider range of outside clinical staff such as counselors, case managers, nurses and doctors operating from centres in the broader community that offer more evidence-based care - that is, managing health problems with proven approaches" sounds a lot like a return to that "traditional (mis)treatment" that the PHS says failed them in the first place.
The walk comes one day after the release of the Report on Missing and Murdered Women that calls for fundamental changes in respect and services for marginalized and vulnerable women, especially in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside.
For more see www.rainierhotel.ca