Government questioned about secular recovery options

An opposition MLA questioned BC's Minister of Mental Health and Addictions last week about whether the province will require some recovery centres to offer secular options.

The question came from North Vancouver-Seymour BC Liberal MLA Jane Thornthwaite during debate over the estimates for the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions on Wednesday.

Thornthwaite asked on behalf of a constituent:

Is the minister willing to require that at least some of the recovery centres that are out there offer secular options? He was concerned of the religious 12-step versions, and he wanted to know whether or not the minister would be willing to advocate for 12-step programs that are not religious — that they are secular options.

On the need for secular options, Minister Judy Darcy did not make any commitments but replied:

We believe that there should be a wide variety of options available for people, and that patients should have choices. There are people for whom faith-based facilities and a 12-step that involves faith are important and are about their healing journey. There are others for whom that is not the case. We don't make judgements about which pathways people follow, nor should we.

On Thursday, Thonthwaite later asked whether the minister agreed "that the existence-based model for recovery is evidence-based?" The Minister responded that there are "different definitions of abstinence" and recovery, and that "there are different treatment pathways, different recovery pathways." She added, "There's evidence for abstinence-based [treatment]."

A review of studies on the effectiveness of abstinence-based 12-step recovery programs found no studies "unequivocally demonstrated the effectiveness" of the approach.

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