Canada's Addiction Hotline: The Solution We've All Been Waiting For
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Canada’s Addiction Hotline: The Solution We’ve All Been Waiting For

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In case you hadn’t noticed, we have a huge problem with healthcare in the United States. Although some good has come from the launch of ObamaCare, my experience has been that while I am paying a fourth of what I used to on health care premiums, what I have is heath coverage not health care.

If I wake up sick, there is no place for me to go. My HMO’s medical group doesn’t do same day or even same week appointments and there is no one to call except an automated appointment line. If I need immediate medical care—like antibiotics, birth control or psych medication refills—I can just forget about it. And the only way for me to get any help at all is to make an actual doctor’s appointment, wait for it, pay the co-pay, and then ask the recent ITT grad or clinical intern who is treating me (I’ve never met my primary care physician or any actual doctor for that matter). Even then, it’s a three-hour affair that makes going to the ER—and worrying about how I am going to pay for it later—seem like a very attractive option.

Which is why it makes me happy to read that in Canada, who is always ahead of us in the health care game, has launched Here 24/7—a one-stop shop hotline for addiction, crisis and mental health services in the Waterloo region. Here 24/7 acts as a welcome wagon for 12 agencies across Waterloo, Wellington and Dufferin—and while that might not mean much for the rest of the country right now, it’s a big jump in setting a standard for service for others to follow suit.

In a time when getting a customer service rep to customer serve anything but attitude or Punjabi-broken English, it’s exciting to imagine that one phone number might do what Here 24/7 does and assure its callers that the person answering will not only be helpful, but will listen and assess your situation, refer you to the necessary place for treatment—even book your appointment for you. It’s this kind of first world simplicity that makes my heart sing; it also makes it all the more frustrating when I have to take a number (literally, they have a ticket dispenser) and then a seat at the live chicken auction my health care provider calls a “clinic.”

But while getting an appointment for a throat culture might be close to futile, it’s a hell of a lot more cut and dry then reaching out for help with an addiction or mental illness. Not only is there social shame attached to these ailments but also a major characteristic of alcoholism and mental illness is denial. The truth is, a lot of alcoholics and drug addicts aren’t aware that they have a real problem—or if they are, many think they can handle it on their own or can’t bring themselves to ask for help. When it comes to mental health and addiction, it’s usually not as simple as a doctor’s visit and a prescription—it’s a multi-layered, life-long battle that many don’t know how to fight and end up losing.

Forgive me for sounding like an entitled American but we need this. Our country is overpopulated with people taking anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication and I suspect this has less to do with overprescribing and more to do with the fact that a two-income, childless household still can’t necessarily afford a home. If we have lost the ability to offer Americans the “American Dream,” we should at least offer them an assessable way to cope with that.

So congrats to Canada for simplifying such a vital civil service. Personally, I have been waiting a year for an appointment to have the quarter-sized lump in my boob checked out. According to my thorough online research (WebMD), there is probably nothing wrong with me but still, I am not a fan of the fingers crossed method of health care.

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About Author

Danielle Stewart is a Los Angeles-based writer and recovering comedian. She has written for Showtime, E!, and MTV, as well as print publications such as Us Weekly and Life & Style Magazine. She returned to school and is currently working her way towards a master’s degree in Marriage and Family Therapy. She loves coffee, Law & Order SVU, and her emotional support dog, Benson.