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Published: July 10, 2011 1:00 PM

A non-profit society is looking to fill the gap in outpatient services for adults dealing with eating disorders in Nanaimo.

Angela Slade, a certified child and youth care counsellor, is co-ordinating the Break Free adult eating disorder pilot program at Shore Counselling Society.

Slade, who recently completed an eight-month practicum at the adult eating disorders program in Parksville, said she approached Shore to donate space for Break Free, because there is no outpatient program for adults dealing with eating disorders or disordered eating in Nanaimo.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority funds the Parksville program, but there is no publicly funded equivalent in Nanaimo. NARSF Programs Ltd. runs a program for children with eating disorders.

“I just know from being in this community for the last 20 years that the need is there,” said Slade, adding people registering told her they’ve hoped for a program like this for a long time.

Only a few weeks after she began registering people for the free workshop series beginning this week, the program is now full – a dozen women have signed up and two more are on a wait list.

“This has just been through word of mouth,” said Slade.

If the program is successful and can demonstrate a need in the community, her hope is the health authority and other sources might fund an ongoing program.

A 12-week workshop/support series started this week and explores topics like stress management, positive relationships, coping with setbacks and social pressures.

Slade said participants learn about the underlying issues that lead to eating disorders and coping strategies.

The other component of the Break Free program is one-on-one counselling, which will be offered on a sliding scale.

“If they can pay something, they’re encouraged to pay it,” said Slade.

The money goes back into the counselling programs Shore provides.

Slade got interested in eating disorders counselling after working at an all-girls private school on the Island about six years ago and seeing some of the issues that arose there.

She does preventative work as well – she developed a self-esteem and body image empowerment summer program for girls, which runs out of the Oliver Woods Community Centre this July.

James Latour Retegno, Shore executive director, said the group gave Slade about $6,500 to offer the program and the society has been busy writing grant proposals to a variety of different groups.

He hopes a successful pilot of the program will secure funding to continue Break Free as a sustainable, ongoing program.

Kelly Reid, VIHA’s director of mental health and addictions services, said the health authority would be open to hearing from the group and would be willing to explore any opportunity to partner with a group offering a valuable program.

“We do have some services and we would like in the future to grow our eating disorder services,” he said.

Sider

A Nanaimo father who fought to get treatment for his daughter last year is happy to see some help is available for people struggling with eating disorders in Nanaimo.

Bryan Dubinsky, whose daughter Samantha was near death last winter when she was refused treatment in B.C.’s only public, inpatient medical program for adults with eating disorders, took his daughter’s story about struggling with an eating disorder to the media in hopes that public pressure would get her the help she needed.

He believes she was refused treatment until she was alarmingly ill – she was 40 pounds underweight – because there simply wasn’t room for her at the seven-bed program at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.

While Samantha eventually got treated at St. Paul’s, Dubinsky has fought for more support for people with eating disorders.

The program that Angela Slade has put together – and her willingness to run this program for free for people who need it but can’t afford it – is going to help fill a service gap in Nanaimo, he said.

“Because there was nothing before,” said Dubinsky. “I think what this woman is doing is nothing short of fantastic.”

But, he added, he’d like to see the province step in.

While the province decided last winter to partially fund a private residential treatment facility for eating disorders, Dubinsky wants funding for more beds at St. Paul’s and more education and outpatient support in communities.

The province developed an action plan for provincial services for people with eating disorders last year, which sets out goals such as analyzing services provided and identifying gaps in the continuum of care, and Dubinsky is worried this plan has stalled out.

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