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Learning to fight the opioid crisis at VCC

Posted on January 22, 2018

News-opioid-crisis-292-smallA lot of dark, rocky years passed before Jeremyah Clark figured out what he truly wanted to do with his life: what his own experiences and predilections would make him good at. It turns out he is good at helping people—specifically, those struggling with drug addictions.

After all, the 29-year-old Comox, B.C., resident has a kind of expertise, stretching back to childhood. “I was addicted to mainly cocaine,” he recounts. “It became opiates in the end. I was using various forms of pills... Oxys and Percocets and that kind of stuff... did that for, well, my whole life.”

In 2013, Clark—who has been sober for the past five years—ended up in a psych ward at Richmond Hospital for two weeks, then a detox centre for another 10 days or so. When he left the facility, he sought counselling through an organization called Transitions. He began working as a support and outreach worker with the Turning Point Recovery Society, which provides residential support services to recovering addicts. “That was the job that changed my life,” says Clark. Admitting he’d been self-centred until that point, “it switched me from thinking about myself to thinking about others and giving back.”

That’s a drive motivating many of the students who register for the addiction counselling skills certificate program at Vancouver Community College (VCC), says program coordinator Matthew Stevenson. The average age of students in the program, a part of VCC’s continuing studies program, is 40. “A lot of them have been working for 20 or 30 years and they have decided they want to make a difference. Their passion is in helping people.”

VCC has offered an addiction counselling program since 1980. Over the years, reflecting the college’s growing emphasis on experiential learning, the program has evolved to give a greater dose of reality and practical learning to prospective counsellors.

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