Former heroin addict Andy Bhatti believes the opioid crisis in Metro Vancouver has reached the epidemic stage.
“Addiction in Langley and Surrey is super bad,” said Bhatti, who left a life of drugs and crime at age 27, and is now a fully certified interventionist.
The wave of opioid addiction that has washed over the region is the motivation behind the Langley resident presenting an event that will educate families on addiction and mental health.
“How Addiction Affects Families” will be presented by six experts from around the world, including former NHL goaltender Clint Malarchuk, and will be held Saturday, April 14 from noon to 6 p.m. at the Fleetwood Community Centre.
Pre-registration will help Bhatti determine the number of people attending. Register online by filling out the contact form at andybhatti.com/contact/.
Bhatti will be co-hosting this one-day public platform with The Cabin Treatment Centre, which he describes as “one of the most reputable drug and alcohol treatment rehabilitation organizations in Asia.”
The event is free and open to anyone, with a particular focus on family and friends who have a loved one that struggles with addiction.
“Treatment for the addict is typically where the work begins and ends, failing to acknowledge the feelings and pain of those around them, such as family and friends,” according to addictions expert and fellow interventionist, Geri Bemister, who will be speaking at the conference.
This conference was put together with the hopes that family and friends will be educated on enabling, trauma, and how the cycle of addictions impacts every member.
“In the therapeutic recovery industry, it is understood that in one way or another, everybody needs to heal,” Bhatti said.
Malarchuck will be speaking on mental health and addictions, and sharing his story on how he survived addiction, trauma and eventually healing as a result of his on-ice life threatening infamous goaltending injury, and his 2008 suicide attempt.
Bhatti knows first hand how addiction can crush a person’s soul. He lived on the streets of Aldergrove and the Downtown Eastside as a teenager, thieving, dealing and running from police to feed his $1,200 a day heroin addiction.
Today, he’s dedicated to helping others and was driven to give back to the community by offering this free conference to parents and families facing the plague of addiction.
The motivation behind the conference is simple.
“We want to be able to give families the opportunity to learn about addiction for free,” Bhatti explained. “Mike (Miller) and I were talking and we thought, ‘How do we give back to our community?’ So between myself, Mike Miller and the Cabin Treatment Center, we thought, ‘Let’s host this event, educate families on addiction, what is co-dependency, what is enabling, and how you can deal with an addict.’”
Before moving to Thailand, Miller worked with the Fraser Health Authority, delivering outpatient treatment. He was born in Vancouver and lived in the Lower Mainland or Vancouver Island all of his life.
“We have several Canadians on staff here and some are in recovery from addiction themselves, including me, so we have a connection and an interest in helping Canadians suffering with addiction,” Miller said.
“The addiction problem there was huge when I left and it’s only gotten worse with the fentanyl/opioid crisis. There are some resources available for people but clearly not enough.”
Miller said recovery that starts with education and treatment.
“A lot of families are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do. They inadvertently enable the addiction when they are trying to support their loved ones,” Miller said. “They are desperate for information and also for a solution.”
He said the conference offers much-needed information for free, “because the community needs it and it’s the right thing to do.”
“The intention is that attendees will take away accurate evidence based upon information, the knowledge that they aren’t alone, awareness of appropriate treatment and avenues to access it and most of all hope.”
Opiates addictions doctor and psychiatrist Lacresha Hall will speak from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m..
From 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. Mike Miller, a clinical lead at The Cabin Treatment Center in Thailand, will run a family program focusing on bullying and how it affects someone’s life long-term.
Then, starting at 2:45 p.m. Bemister will educate families about co-dependency and how to deal with an addict.
Bhatti and Malarchuk will wrap up the conference.
Professional workbooks will be distributed to the first 150 families in attendance.