Manitoba

Brandon support group for families of addicts surpasses 100 members in 6 months

When Danielle Lalonde put a call out in May for families dealing with addictions to join a support group, she anticipated getting together with a few moms for coffee once a month. Six months on, the group she founded has more than 100 families — a fact Lalonde has mixed feelings about.

Danielle Lalonde founded the southwestern Manitoba group while looking for help for her own family

Danielle Lalonde started the support group Westman Families of Addicts after struggling to find resources for her own family. (Riley Laychuk/CBC)

When Danielle Lalonde put a call out in May for family members of addicts in southwestern Manitoba to join a support group, she anticipated getting together with a few moms for coffee once a month.

Six months on, the group she founded, Westman Families of Addicts, has more than 100 families — a fact the Brandon woman has mixed feelings about.

"I feel really good that we're breaking down some stigma and we're able to provide some education and resources to people," Lalonde said. "Part of me is sad, though.

"It really scares me that that many people have come up."

Lalonde, whose son has battled a serious methamphetamine addiction, founded the group after trying to get help for her own family. She wasn't sure where to turn to find resources and wanted to connect with others in her own community. 

She said the biggest thing she has learned from other families in the last six months is something that is now well documented — a distinct lack of detox and recovery centre services in Manitoba. 
When a Brandon mom first put a call out in May for families dealing with addictions, she anticipated getting together with a few moms for coffee once a month. Now the group has surpassed 100 families. It's a milestone that has brought mixed emotions to the founder. 1:33

"What I have found out is, of course, the average family doesn't have $25,000 for [private] treatment," said Lalonde. "One of the other things I've learned in the community is that absolutely no one is immune to this problem.

"I'm finding a lot of parents are like myself," she added. "They had no reason to know anything about the legal system ... to be following the mental health system or finding that access or support." 

'Put egos aide' 

Lalonde believes the group has helped families in the Brandon area navigate the resources and mental health services available and says while bringing a detox and recovery centre to Brandon might be a far-off goal right now, business owners and other organizations have already stepped forward to offer money and support.

"People want to support a healthy community — lots of times they don't know how to go about doing that," she said.

Drug abuse, she said, is a crisis affecting the entire province, even if there are people who say it doesn't affect them or their families.

"We almost need to ... put egos aside and all get together for the greater good for the community," Lalonde said.

"There's no reason we can't make Westman a forerunner for treatment and a forerunner for success."

Looking to 2018, Lalonde said she has no doubt that there are another 100 families in the Westman region in the same situation as her family, but she would like to see some changes to make it easier for families and addicts to get help before they reach that point.

Crisis getting worse 

"Our addiction crisis is getting worse and worse," she said. "Although that's a really sad thing ... it is a good thing if they can come out and erase the stigma and be educated." 

On the horizon, she said the group is planning to increase its presence in Brandon and is hoping to get non-profit status. Westman Families of Addicts has a public forum on drug use scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Jan. 9 at Knox United Church in Brandon.

As for her own son, Lalonde said she is hopeful he is slowly on the road to recovery. While he is not in rehab, she said he has been accepted into a program that helps people find stable housing in Brandon — just one part of the solution. 

"The reality is it affects all of us," she said. "We all have a slice of the pie and we all have vested interest. But we need to put the whole pie together and we need to collaborate." 

About the Author

Riley Laychuk is CBC's reporter based in Brandon, covering rural Manitoba. Share your story ideas, tips and feedback: riley.laychuk@cbc.ca.