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Posts Tagged "fights"

28Aug

Pharmacist fights for right to take opioid replacement medication on the job | CBC News

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B.C.’s Human Rights Tribunal will hear the case of a pharmacist who claims restrictions on opioid replacement medication for working healthcare professionals is discriminatory — even though he’s been cleared to re-apply for his licence.

The 16-year pharmacist, who is not named or identified in any way by the tribunal, is now free to return to work following a second opinion from an addictions specialist. It’s unclear if he has applied to do so and he argues his screening process took too long.  

The pharmacist argues there’s no scientific reason to restrict healthcare workers from using medications that curb drug cravings and withdrawal in order to aid addiction recovery.

The 16-year pharmacist, who is not named or identified in any way by the tribunal, was initially denied his license when he tried to return to work two years ago after a voluntary suspension due to an “addiction-related disability” that led to a $1,300-per-week heroin habit.

He wanted to use Suboxone — a medication that curbs opioid cravings — and be allowed to return to his job dealing with high-risk drugs. Doctors and nurses in many U.S. states and Quebec are permitted to take Suboxone, and in some cases methadone, while working.

Suboxone allowed him to live ‘a normal life’

According to an  Aug. 22  tribunal decision, the pharmacist struggled with opioid addiction, including heroin, for several years, then returned to work. But he relapsed in 2015, despite a return-to-work plan that included monitoring. The pharmacist voluntarily suspended his license, returning to in-patient treatment.

He was prescribed Suboxone, a medication used to curb craving for opioids and ultimately taper opioid use, in 2016. The pharmacist reported Suboxone helped him live a normal life.

But when he attempted to return to work in 2017, the addictions specialist who evaluated him determined the pharmacist was not fit for duty in a “safety-sensitive” job — such as a clinical pharmacist who handled opioids — if he continued to take Suboxone. 

The pharmacist who launched the complaint to the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal did get a second opinion when he balked at abstinence as having no scientific basis as successful. That doctor agreed. (Shutterstock / Atstock Productio)

The doctor also recommended he enter a 12-step program, faith-based treatment program that requires abstinence from all drugs. He objected because he is an atheist and claimed the drug-free rule wasn’t based on scientific evidence.

The pharmacist sought a second doctor’s assessment and the college eventually accepted new recommendations in August 2018 which allow him to submit an application to register as a full pharmacist.

The first doctor and the College of Pharmacists of B.C. then requested his human rights complaint be dismissed. But the tribunal ruled Aug. 22 that the hearing will proceed, in part.

‘Hurt and shocked’

In the pharmacist’s initial complaint to the Human Rights Tribunal he argued that he was discriminated against because he was referred to a religious-based treatment program when he’s an atheist, and he wasn’t allowed to return to work unless he stopped using medication needed for his disability.

That precondition prevented his return to work in a “reasonable time frame,” he argued.

The pharmacist said the first doctor who assessed him “demonstrated unfair and offensive stigma and stereotyping of people with addiction issues.”

He described feeling “hurt and shocked” when the assessing doctor asked if a return to work would make him feel “like being a kid in a candy store” since he would be near so many drugs.

Tribunal Member Emily Ohler said she read more than 1,300 page of submissions from all parties before determining a hearing was needed.

Ohler denied the pharmacist’s claim of discrimination based on religion, as the 12-step treatment program was not mandatory. She did order a hearing into the discrimination claim based on mental disability.

In her ruling Ohler cited an expert who confirmed past workplace addictions policies in this province restricted healthcare workers from using drugs like Suboxone, but said that practice needed more study.

In Quebec, doctors overcoming addiction can use methadone. An American study published by the Mayo Clinic in 2012 reported dozens of healthcare worker discipline programs permitting nurses and doctors to return to work while using similar addiction treatments.

Suboxone is a long-acting opioid medication used to replace shorter-acting opioids like heroin, oxycodone, fentanyl or hydromorphone. It can prevent withdrawal symptoms and reduce cravings. (Sally Pitt/CBC)

2Feb

Vancouver woman fights strata to keep emotional support dog

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Stephanie Kallstrom has filed a human rights complaint against her strata to keep her emotional service dog, Ember.


Francis Georgian / Postmedia News

A few months after adopting a border collie mix, Stephanie Kallstrom was able to stop using the anti-anxiety medications she had taken since her teens.

Now, the Vancouver woman is fighting to keep the dog — named Ember — despite her strata’s strict pet policy.

“She (Ember) changed my life,” Kallstrom said Saturday. “I assumed she’d be accommodated here because she’s been accommodated on airplanes, in hotels and at the hospital.”

Kallstrom’s downtown condo allows residents to keep up to two dogs, but she argues Ember shouldn’t be counted in that total because she acts as an emotional support animal (ESA). Kallstrom also has two small poodles.

In B.C., ESAs are not considered service dogs or guide dogs, which are legally allowed in strata properties. In January 2016, the Guide Dog and Service Dog Act came into effect, giving certified handlers “access rights equal to those enjoyed by all members of the public,” according to a provincial government press release.

It also provided a way for dog handlers whose dogs were not trained by an accredited school to apply for certification and have the animals tested by the Justice Institute.

But Kallstrom feels there should be some middle ground. While she plans to go through the process of getting Ember certified as a service dog, she’s concerned that other ESAs wouldn’t be able to pass the rigorous testing required.

“Many people need their ESAs as a vital part of their health, but they couldn’t pass,” she said. “There should be a specific certification for ESAs.”

A quick internet search brings up a host of sites claiming to certify ESAs. For less than $100 and the time it takes to answer a few questions, owners can obtain certificates, vests and collars to identify their animals.

“I realize there’s a lot of fake emotional support dogs out there,” said Kallstrom. “But there’s also a lot of legitimate ones, and there should be some way to tell the difference.”

Related

The Vancouver woman is open about her struggles with mental health, including post-traumatic stress, anxiety and depression, which have dogged her since she was 10 years of age. After adopting Ember in Abbotsford in 2014, she was able to stop taking medication, a milestone witnessed by her doctor, who provided her with a letter recognizing the dog’s assistance.

As a result, Ember has been allowed on flights, in hotels and department stores. When Kallstrom had surgery at a Vancouver hospital, the dog was permitted in her room during recovery.

“She uses tactile stimulation to avoid a crisis and keep me safe,” she said. “She can sense what I’m feeling, and she’s there with a lick or a nudge or a paw.”

On Saturday, Ember sat quietly on Kallstrom’s couch, her nose resting on her paws, her large brown eyes tracking movements. Later, on a noisy city street, she walked calmly beside her owner.

The use of ESAs has increased dramatically in the last decade. A 2015 study by researchers at the University of California found a tenfold increase in the number of animals used for psychiatric services registered by animal control facilities in California between 2000 and 2002 compared to 2010 and 2012.

ESAs have also been the subject of dozens of news stories and viral videos. Last week, a Pennsylvania man made headlines when he said his emotional support alligator helped him deal with his depression. In January 2018, airline staff stopped an emotional support peacock from flying with its owner.

In January, both United Airlines and Delta Air Lines tightened their rules around ESAs, saying they will no longer allow ESA puppies and kittens under four months old and barring them completely on longer flights. The airlines cited complaints about allergies, soiled cabins and aggressive animals for the change.

The blurring of the line between legitimate service dogs and emotional support dogs can cause problems for people with certified service dogs, Tara Doherty, spokeswoman for Pacific Assistance Dogs Society (PADs), told Postmedia News in a previous interview.

“We’ve had reports of businesses not being open to certified service dogs because of their experiences with an ill-behaved dog,” she said. “It’s a significant concern because it creates a bad reputation for legitimate service dogs.”

Kallstrom has filed a complaint with the B.C. Human Rights Tribunal to argue her case.

With Postmedia files

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23Sep

Barber fights to build compassion for DTES residents, 1 free haircut at a time

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Barber Alysha Osborne first decided to give free haircuts on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside after a troubling encounter with an acquaintance more than a year ago.

The two were getting out of a taxi when someone approached them and asked for spare change. The acquaintance laughed and told the person to get a job.

“It really pissed me off,” Osborne said, in the office upstairs from where she manages a downtown barber shop.

Osborne decided she wanted to do something to foster compassion for disadvantaged people living in Vancouver. She created 2 Paycheques Away, a non-profit that offers free haircuts and fundraises for Downtown Eastside residents.

“I want people to realize that it doesn’t take a lot to make a change,” she said. “Be humane to people, and compassion. It’s really not that hard.”

On Sunday afternoon, Osborne will be hosting a fundraiser and launch of her new book, which documents a year of giving free haircuts and shaves.

 

Osborne says her clients often seem brighter and more confident after getting one of her free haircuts. (Mihailo Subotic/2 Paycheques Away)

The organization operates out of a back room of a non-profit work clothing provider called Working Gear on Powell Street.

Along with the free haircuts, Osborne works with photographer Mihailo Subotic to get before and after shots of her clients — if they’re willing.

Osborne thought of before and after shots specifically because she wanted people to see how a simple change like a haircut can transform a person and how they’re perceived by others.

Of the roughly 200 free haircuts she’s given, Osborne says about 50 clients agreed to have their photo taken and sometimes share their story.

“Because of the purpose of the project,a lot of them gave me a lot of truth,” she said. “They want people to know how it goes.”

‘She cracks jokes’

Brad Bell, 57, first started getting haircuts from Osborne about a year ago.

Bell used to work as a fish culture technician, remediating river beds. But a congenital heart condition and bad arthritis means he now lives mostly off of disability cheques.

 

Brad Bell has been getting haircuts from Alysha Osborne for the past year. (Mihailo Subotic/2 Paycheques Away)

Bell went to Working Gear looking for rain gear — his had been stolen. While he was there, the volunteers at the shop told him there was a new barber working in the back giving free haircuts.

He and Osborne clicked. Since then, he’s been seeing her about every three months.

“She’s really sweet, funny — she cracks jokes,” Bell said. “She’s really nice, personable.”

Personal connection

Osborne says she knows from personal experience that most people on the Downtown Eastside don’t choose to end up there — her stepmother ran away from home as a teenager and ended up in the area as a sex worker and heroin addict by time she was 20.

“It’s really hard to know somebody and see that, but then see strangers and know that they’re going through the exact same thing,” she said.

 

Osborne also provides her clients with a free shave, if they want it. (Mihailo Subotic/2 Paycheques Away)

Osborne says she and Subotic had no idea what to expect when they first started their project. But in the past year, she has learned a lot from her clients — mostly about humanity and kindness.

“Everybody wanted to offer me something back, but these are people who have nothing,” she said.

Proceeds from Sunday’s fundraiser will go to Working Gear and the Downtown Eastside Women’s shelter. Proceeds from the book will also go towards supporting 2 Paycheques Away.

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