Families and substance use treatment: Creating a learning alliance

Research co-leads:

  • Amy Salmon
    University of British Columbia 
  • Fiona Martin 
    Dalhousie University
  • Chris Richardson
    University of British Columbia 
  • Anne Whittaker
    University of Stirling

Research user co-leads:

  • Otto Lim
    Otto Lim Counselling
  • Cari St. Pierre
    From Grief to Action

Tema member:

  • Mai Berger
    University of British Columbia 

A public health emergency has been declared in British Columbia in response to the rising number of fentanyl-related overdose deaths. While numerous efforts are underway to coordinate and improve access to evidence-based addictions treatment and related services, it is crucial these efforts include a comprehensive and nuanced understanding of the impact of substance use problems on parents and families. Stigma, stress, caregiver burden, and current service limitations can affect people’s ability to access services and effective interventions to help them recover from addictions.

This project will support an emerging team of investigators, clinicians, and advocates passionate about reducing health and social inequities for and improving the care of families affected by substance use problems. Under a participatory research agenda, families, researchers, clinicians, service planners, and policy makers will be brought together for a three-day workshop to support the development of a pragmatic, rigorous evidence-base needed to enable this work. The main deliverable will be a sustainable “Learning Alliance”, made up of researchers and research users who will address challenges around effective policy and practice related to supporting families affected by substance use problems and develop momentum for subsequent activities. The knowledge this team’s research and learning alliance will generate would inform provincial efforts to improve the delivery of services to individuals struggling with addictions and the family members who support them.

The breadth and scope of this collaboration will be increased through synergy with an emerging five country collaboration focused on examining policy and practice on substance use and parenting in Canada, the UK, US, Ireland and Australia. This perspective, also supported through a learning alliance, will allow for knowledge exchange, provide a more nuanced understanding of the core governing principles and ethics of care in different contexts, and will catalyze efforts to generate the evidence-base needed to enable this work.