A Vancouver family known for its philanthropy is making a $20 million donation to a British Columbia substance use treatment center in memory of their adult son and brother who died of an opioid overdose.
Jill Diamond, executive director of Vancouver’s Diamond Foundation and sister to Steven Diamond, said in a statement that her brother might still be alive today if he had received the care being offered at Vancouver’s St. Paul’s Hospital.
Jill Diamond says when her brother Steven was struggling with substance addiction the system meant to support him was messy and filled with delays, disappointments and waiting lists.
After years during which prolonged periods of sobriety were punctuated with the pain of addiction, she says her athletic, loving, and helpful brother was put on a waiting list to see an addiction psychiatrist. Steven died in 2016 from a fentanyl overdose less than a week before the appointment.
“Some people say the system is simply broken. But the truth is, the system we need doesn’t even exist,” she said.
Called Road to Recovery, the 95-bed program aims to streamline the process for someone working their way through withdrawal management, in-patient recovery-focused care, transitional housing, and outpatient treatment.
“We don’t want people to be forced to endure agonizing waitlists while navigating different resources at different places at different times,” Diamond said at the donation announcement. “Instead, we aim to cut weeks or months off waiting lists within a full spectrum of treatment services all in one location — seamless, centralized — setting a new standard across Canada.”
Dr. Seonaid Nolan of Providence Health Care, a program partner, said intake and access to addiction services will be centralized to improve communication between service providers, and referrals will be coordinated.
“It’s about increasing treatment capacity, but more importantly, reorganization and developing a comprehensive coordinated treatment system for people so that they can receive the right level of support that they require when needed,” she said.
The province of BC has committed $60.9 million over three years toward the program’s operating costs.
Fiona Dalton, president of Providence Health Care, said the donation from the Diamond Foundation was a “catalyst” to getting the province on-board.
“We were able to go to the government with this fundamental new way of working and we were able to say, ‘And to enable this we have a commitment from a donor to put all of this money in,’” she said. “And that was really what enabled us to have that conversation.”
The program will include 45 beds at St. Paul’s and 50 in nearby locations.
The first beds, focused on stabilization, are expected to open this fall, with the rest in St. Paul’s available within the next six-to-nine months, while the beds outside the hospital are expected within a year, Dalton said.
Steven Diamond was known as a giving addictions counsellor and massage therapist, his sister said.
Jill Diamond said her brother had professional and personal knowledge of the addictions landscape, as well as “family means” to pay for recovery.
“The fact that even he couldn’t get well, despite giving his entire life’s effort, shows addiction is a disease that must be looked at medically with new models of care,” she said in a statement. “That’s what today is about.”
Jill Diamond is the executive director of the Diamond Foundation. As a founding member of Jewish Federation’s young adult division, Jill has been volunteering for over eighteen years.
During that time, she has been on the board of trustees and the grant distribution committee of the Jewish Community Foundation and co-chaired the Lion of Judah committee for the Federation Annual Campaign. She also serves as the chair of Jewish Federation’s planning council.
Outside of Jewish Federation, Jill has served on Jewish Family Services Agency’s executive board for 10 years and continues to be involved by raising funds and serving on their corporate sponsorship committee.
She sits on the board of governors for the Jewish Community Centre and the Vancouver Holocaust Education Centre and is an honorary board member for Big Sisters. She is also serving on the BC Women’s Hospital & Health Centre Foundation campaign cabinet, currently raising funds for their new neonatal intensive care unit.