Outpatient care 'more convenient option,' says addiction treatment centre's co-founder

A drug and alcohol recovery program in Saskatoon has been treating people for addictions while still living at home, going about their daily lives and even keeping their jobs.

Possibilities Recovery Centre in Saskatoon treats people during weekday evening sessions

Possibilities Recovery Centre, which opened in Saskatoon last year, offers outpatient addiction treatment programs. (Possibilities Recovery Centre/Facebook)

A drug and alcohol recovery program in Saskatoon has been treating people for addictions while still living at home, going about their daily lives and even keeping their jobs. 

Possibilities Recovery Centre, which opened on Thatcher Drive in Saskatoon's north end last winter, offers a four month outpatient program. Participants take part in group sessions and individual counselling from 4:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every weekday. All of this has been taking place online throughout the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tanner Perratt, one of Possibilities' co-founders, recognized the need for more outpatient treatment options when he was beginning to recover from alcohol addiction seven years ago. 

"In patching together my own recovery through AA meetings and speaking with counselors and therapists, I recognized that it is an available option," he said. "It's a more convenient option for alcohol and for addiction treatment, and it works."

Stopping addiction in its tracks. Host Shauna Powers speaks to Tanner Perratt. He's one of the men behind an outpatient drug and alcohol recovery program. It helps patients kick their addictions -- while still living at home. 12:30

Perratt says both inpatient and outpatient programs have their advantages — for some people, being in the new environment of an inpatient program may help them break longstanding habits, while others benefit from addressing their addictions in the context of their ordinary lives. 

"The biggest difference I find is that it's almost like an apprenticeship where you're learning on the job, versus going to university for a certain amount of time and then you're thrown into the workforce," he said.

While someone is getting treatment at Possibilities, Perratt says the program also emphasizes educating that person's support network — their family and friends — about what addiction looks like, how it comes about and what healthy support looks like. 

"A lot of times, people will recognize that 'my heart was in the right place, but I didn't realize what I was doing was enabling or unhealthy,'" he said. 

The program also asks for complete honesty, but does not kick people out if they relapse. Instead, counselors strategize with patients to better understand what happened and what tools they could use to make a different choice next time. 

"We've had a few clients that did relapse throughout their programming, and if we had kicked them out, chances are they would still be using today," said Perratt. "But because we approached it in that way, they are sober and living in recovery today."

Outpatient more accessible: Perratt

Possibilities offers a much longer program than many other addictions treatment providers — 120 days, rather than the more common 28-day program. Perratt says this is based on research findings about how the human brain heals from substance use, which show that it can take a long time for brain chemistry to reach a new and sustainable equilibrium.

Perratt also believes that having outpatient options can make treatment more accessible, because people may find it less stigmatizing than going away to inpatient treatment for weeks at a time. 

"One of the biggest reasons that I didn't go to treatment myself was because of the stigma surrounding being an addict or being an alcoholic," said Perratt. "I didn't want to be associated with that. If I had known then what I know now, I would have [gone] to treatment, because it took me a lot longer to learn the things and learn the tools that I needed to know to have a successful recovery.

"I had to make a veer in my path, and that's what I hope our outpatient program can do for people — help them, in amongst their routine lives, to overcome the hurdles that they're dealing with and learn new ways to go about their day."

One barrier that has been more difficult for Possibilities to overcome is the cost of treatment. While Possibilities is a non-profit, and Perratt says they only charge what is necessary to sustain the program, people have still been discouraged by the price tag.

"Right now, it costs us $14,000 to run a 16-week program [and] the people that are taking the program are responsible for paying that whole cost," he said. "We're finding a lot of people that aren't able to afford it, so we've done all we can to stretch out payments and to make it affordable." 

Perratt says it's hard to turn people away who want and need help, but can't pay. 

"There's so many people that come in here with a sound of desperation in their voice because they really want this," he said.

"And once the conversation of the cost comes up, it's almost like a deflated balloon where they just feel defeated — they want this support, they need the support, but they can't afford to get it. And unfortunately we've had to turn some people away. If we did it all for free, we wouldn't be here for very long."

Since registering as a charity in October 2020, Possibilities has been using the donations it receives to subsidize treatment for as many people as possible, and is actively searching for more funding.

"Right now, our charitable account is kind of sitting in the negative because we've helped more people through programming than we have received in donations," Perratt. 

Earlier this week, Possibilities hosted an online gala fundraiser to support its programs featuring music by The Gong Show, guest speaker Brad Siroski and MC Rod Pedersen. A recorded version of the event is still available, and the price of admission is a donation to Possibilities.