Vancouver, BC – Vancouver resident Kim Williams has been living with chronic pain for years: degenerative bone disease in her spine, fibromyalgia, damaged cartilage in her knees and lingering issues after recovery from a broken neck. Thanks to a first-of-its-kind pilot program in the Downtown Eastside that offers physiotherapy, individual and group counselling and other treatments, Williams is now getting stronger and learning to manage her pain without the use of opioids or any pain medication.
"I've spoken with many people whose journey of addiction began with an injury that anyone could experience," said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. "When it comes to chronic pain management, we know one size doesn't fit all. This program gives some of the most vulnerable people in our community access to drug-free treatment options on their pathway to healing."
The DTES Chronic Pain Service — which launched early this year and serves clients of Vancouver Community Primary Care — offers drug-free options for chronic pain management. Operated by Vancouver Coastal Health, it was created in response to the city's opioid crisis, and is operated with Provincial Overdose Emergency Response funding. The program is low-barrier for patients referred to the service by their doctors at local Community Health Centres; they are able to come and go as they need to.
"We're serving a marginalized population with one or more chronic conditions. Many of our clients have mental health or substance use issues, but not all of them do," said Clinic physiotherapist Will Bateman. "Many of them are living in poverty, they have no access to physiotherapy or counselling specific to pain, or to myoActivation."
At the clinic, clients also learn about the complexity of pain through a class series called Making Sense of Pain, which was developed by Pain BC, a registered charity supporting people with chronic pain. It's a unique approach, said Bateman, and the program has taken off since it launched in February, and has already reached its cap of 200 appointments per month.
Williams was among the first clients treated at the clinic, and has since become a regular. "I'm learning how to live a life that is worth living," she said. "My path has changed into healthier choices and interactions from the tools I have learned from the program."
Vancouver Coastal Health is responsible for the delivery of $3.3 billion in community, hospital and long-term care to more than one million people in communities including Richmond, Vancouver, the North Shore, Sunshine Coast, Sea to Sky corridor, Powell River, Bella Bella and Bella Coola. VCH also provides specialized care and services for people throughout BC, and is the province's hub of health care education and research.
Vancouver Coastal Health