Tailored response in Alberta, B.C. for South Asians addicted to opioids

CEO of Punjabi community health group: ‘The silence is deafening in our community around it’

A medical clinic in B.C. and a social service agency in Alberta are set to expand their programs to meet the often-hidden and growing problem of South Asians battling addiction to opioids.

The Roshni Clinic opened last spring in Surrey to provide services for South Asian clients addicted to alcohol and stimulants including amphetamine and cocaine. But more programs will be offered in the coming months to deal with the use of opioids such as heroin, oxycodone and Percocet, said Dr. Rupinder Brar, an addiction specialist who works at the facility.

READ MORE: Substance use clinic for South Asians opens in Surrey

“Thirty per cent of the population in Surrey is Punjabi speaking,” she said.

“There are physicians out there who’ve been there for a while providing services, and I’m sure these patients bring their friend or a doctor may have a translator but it would be nice to expand those services in a way that is culturally sensitive and provide therapy to the family as well.”

However, she said immigrant patients urgently need treatment and counselling from health-care providers who speak Punjabi or Hindi, and that’s what Roshni — which means light — will offer them.

Brar lauded the Alberta government for providing $560,000 in funding last December for Punjabi Community Health Services in Calgary and said she is hoping for increased resources from the B.C. government.

Rimpy Hehar, a registered psychologist with the Alberta social services agency, said starting in March, provincial funding will be used to offer culturally tailored services including counselling and distribution of the overdose-reversing drug naloxone as well as referral to harm reduction services at supervised consumption sites.

It’s difficult to know how many people in the South Asian community are struggling with opioid use disorder in the Calgary area, Hehar said.

“We’re finding that there is an overwhelming number of people within the northeast region of Calgary who are using opioids,” she said, adding the area is home to a large South Asians population. “People may be less likely to seek help because of keeping issues of the family within the family house.”

Providing support to family members who have shouldered the burden of a loved one’s opioid use until finances and relationships may have collapsed will be key, Hehar said.

“What we find is that family structure, family support, those can play a huge role in recovery or even the way that addiction progresses within a family setting,” she said.

In Ontario, naloxone distribution and counselling are already offered through Punjabi Community Health Services in Brampton and Mississauga, said CEO Baldev Mutta.

He said 90 per cent of their clients struggling with opioid addiction are Punjabi Sikhs and services are also available in Hindi, Gujarati and Malayalam, a language mostly spoken in the south of India.

Opioid addiction is a big issue among men working in the trucking and taxi industries, he said.

“They are city and long-haul truck drivers,” Mutta said. “All these youngsters who are between the ages of 21 to about 30, they are into the trucking industry and that’s where these drug dealers prey on them.”

Drivers are often offered $5,000 to make a round trip between the Toronto and Vancouver areas in four days, he said.

“They say, ‘All the truck drivers do it.’ And they hook them on a mixture of heroin and crystal meth. You just don’t fall asleep and then you crash after about four days and you don’t wake up for two days,” Mutta said.

Many of the drivers are enticed to make money so they can get settled in Canada as new immigrants but often find themselves facing drug charges without any knowledge of the legal implications, he said, adding families often to end up financially ruined.

Mutta said he regularly raises the issue of opioid abuse on Punjabi TV and radio programs, but said more community leaders must step up to create awareness about the crisis.

“The silence is deafening in our community around it.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Just Posted

Team BC advancing undefeated in junior nationals

A Langley-based team is 6-0, thus far, at the Canadian curling championships.

VIDEO: Rivermen back on the ice in Langley tonight

In their game against West Kelowna tonight, Langley’s junior A hockey team gets into action at 7:15.

Langley serves as backdrop to pair of competing short films

In the 20th annual Crazy8s Film competition, two of six producers will be filming in Langley.

Fraser Valley Thunderbirds perched in first place

Minor midgets, including several from Langley, hit the ice again on Friday.

Chances coming for public to have say on Langley tax rates

Local councillors will soon debate property tax rates for 2019.

VIDEO: Here’s what the B.C. legislature officers are accused of buying

Personal trips, purchases, alcohol and more laid out in 76-page report by Plecas

LNG Canada support far outweighs protests, CEO says

Andy Calitz vows completion on schedule at B.C. Natural Resource Forum

B.C. Green Party leader calls for Assistant Deputy Speaker to step aside

Weaver alleges whistleblower was fired after looking into the Liberal MLA’s expenses

B.C. man says he was evicted due to ‘personal vendetta’ against his toddler

Matt Astifan says he has tried to do what he can but a young child will always make some noise

Case of B.C. man caught with 27,500 fentanyl pills thrown out due to Charter breach

‘Ambiguous’ signal by drug sniffer dog Doodz leads to B.C. Supreme Court decision

B.C. animal killer Kayla Bourque guilty of breaching conditions

Bourque is expected to be sentenced on Feb. 8

Men allegedly tied to Red Scorpions gang arrested in B.C. drug busts

Nanaimo RCMP have made multiple arrests and seized drugs, weapons and cash

Man pulls over to help injured owl, gets hit by SUV

Chase RCMP say owl flew away while they were on scene

VIDEO: Soon-to-be-extinct caribou moved to B.C. interior

The three caribou are being held in pens north of Revelstoke

Most Read