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'This is life or death:' P.E.I. woman raising concerns about province’s addiction services

Ellen Taylor sits in her kitchen in Charlottetown with a copy of a letter she sent to Health Minister James Aylward that raised concerns about addiction treatment options in P.E.I.
Ellen Taylor sits in her kitchen in Charlottetown with a copy of a letter she sent to Health Minister James Aylward that raised concerns about addiction treatment options in P.E.I. - Ryan Ross

Ellen Taylor says she used to be reckless when she drank.

She would black out, sometimes driving drunk, and look back the next day as she wondered how she could let it happen.

“It’s scary when I think about it,” she said.

More than two years after her third drunk driving conviction, Taylor is trying to bring attention to some of the issues people dealing with addictions face as they try to get help.

Taylor said her addiction problems began about 15 years ago.

She had a supportive family, played sports, did well in school, had a daughter when she was 20 and didn’t drink much.

“It just kind of spiraled to the point where I just didn’t want to live anymore.”

The problems began, Taylor said, with unhealthy dieting that led to an eating disorder and spiraled into drinking and using drugs.

That substance abuse started to have an impact on her life, including the impaired driving convictions that led to a total of more than 70 days in jail sentences.

There were periods of sobriety over those years that didn’t last, Taylor said.

“I just never really got the help that I needed but, in hindsight, I don’t think I was really ready to go that deep in it.”

Taylor, who is 39, said she sought some treatment, but didn’t want to let her addiction go or think that she could.

“It just kind of spiraled to the point where I just didn’t want to live anymore.”

That’s when she went to see a psychiatrist who referred her to the Oakhill Recovery Centre in Nova Scotia where she spent two months before returning to P.E.I. in November.

She has remained sober since then.

Taylor said that referral was when everything changed for her and when she got out of the car at the treatment facility, she made it clear she was ready to deal with her addiction issues.

“I did everything they told me to do,” she said.

“This is life or death for a lot of people on P.E.I."

Not everyone has the same family supports as Taylor or access to the Oakhill Recovery Centre and she is hoping to draw attention to the issue by hosting a public forum.

Taylor said she plans to invite every MLA and wants to have four or five people speak about their experiences with the system.

She hasn’t set a date for that forum yet, but Taylor did send a letter to Health Minister James Aylward raising concerns she said she has heard from other people who struggle with addictions.

Those concerns include a lack of available beds at the Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility in Mount Herbert, wait times for beds in detox, a lack of addiction counsellors and a lack of beds at Lacey House, which is a treatment facility for women.

The Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility in Mount Herbert. - SaltWire file photo
The Provincial Addictions Treatment Facility in Mount Herbert. - SaltWire file photo

Sitting in her kitchen with a copy of the letter on the table in front of her, Taylor talked about an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting she attended where she said a man wept throughout the whole meeting.

Taylor said that man told people at the meeting that he didn’t know what he was going to do because he couldn’t get into detox.

That’s what prompted Taylor to plan the forum and reach out to government, she said.

“It makes it so hard for people who can’t navigate the system or have difficulties, as it is, let alone trying to stay sober.”

With the planned forum, Taylor said she hopes anyone who is interested in the issue or is impacted by someone dealing with addictions will attend.

Taylor said she thinks a lot of people don’t know about the issues.

“This is life or death for a lot of people on P.E.I.,” she said.

Twitter.com/ryanrross


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