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At-home detox in Surrey targets underserved South Asian community

A home-based detox service will be launched next month in Surrey with a focus on the area’s South Asian community. It targets people who often feel shame when asking for help — which can have deadly consequences during B.C.’s overdose epidemic.

“South Asian communities, they will not seek help because of the stigma associated with it, and it doesn’t help that there’s a huge waiting list” for government-subsidized residential treatment, said outreach worker Ritu Guglani.

“They are working people, so if we can support them at home while their life goes on — they don’t have to leave their job, they can still be in their family, they can still support their kids — then that will be great.”

Guglani is one of eight members of a new team, created by the non-profit Options Community Services. Starting in April, it will help residents of Surrey, Delta and White Rock wean themselves off drugs or alcohol in their own homes. The withdrawal management and detox program is a two-year pilot project funded by $2.6 million from the federal government, and will be analyzed for its effectiveness by Simon Fraser University researchers.

There are a handful of services in B.C. that provide support to people withdrawing at home, in cities such as Vancouver, Richmond and Kamloops, but there are no at-home detox services in the Fraser Health region, an area with a large South Asian population.

While anyone in Surrey, Delta or White Rock can use the new program, Options hired Punjabi-speaking workers to assist South Asians who may be hesitant to go into residential treatment because of language barriers or because they find the food and culture foreign.

“The inception of this idea (was) the substance use that we’re seeing in Surrey, and how the South Asian community is really an under-represented community,” said Neil Arao, Options’ deputy executive director.

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