Five Questions with Brenda Plant

This month, we have Brenda Plant, Executive Director of Turning Point Recovery Society, joining us to answer five questions related to Turning Point and her work.

Turning Point Recovery Society is a non-profit organization committed to improving the health and well-being of individuals struggling with addiction, along with providing support to their families and communities. Turning Point offers a continuum of residential and outpatient support services, education and leadership. They currently operate in Vancouver, Richmond, the North Shore and Squamish.

Brenda Plant has been the Executive Director of Turning Point since 2005. She has over 35 years of experience in the non-profit sector specializing in addictions, mental health, and domestic violence.

Brenda represents Turning Point as a member of CAI’s Supportive Recovery Home Community Advisory Committee, and in 2019, Turning Point was a successful recipient of a Community Counselling Grant, focusing on expanding their Outreach and Resource Support Program (OARS).

Continue reading below to read the Q&A!

1. The Community Advisory Committee brings together policy-makers and service providers at the same table to talk about real issues impacting the supportive recovery sector. What have been some benefits of this model of government engagement?

I have always believed that collaboration is essential to service delivery, policy development and governance. Now, more than ever before, multi partner collaboration is critical for addressing our current overdose crisis. We need the whole system working together seamlessly. Too often, this important work happens in silos and planning tables are not fully inclusive. Providers and stakeholders are often excluded from the tables when discussions are taking place that impact services. Through this engagement work of CAI, we are working collaboratively with government and contributing in a real way to the development of standards that will govern our operations and services that will help those we serve. This is a monumental step forward.

2. Over the past few decades, there has been increased provincial focus on “building a seamless continuum of mental health and substance use care and services”, most recently in the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions’ 10 Year Plan, Pathway to Hope. From your perspective, what is most needed at a systems-level to achieve this goal?

Turning Point – North Shore Women’s

Policy makers, academics, health care professionals and government talk a lot about the continuum of care in mental health and addictions in BC and yet, despite the great strides we have made, we still don’t really have one. We have numerous programs and interventions operating concurrently but not seamlessly and not collaboratively. We need to employ a multi-systemic approach to treatment, not one that is exclusive of other levels of care. I believe that all interventions in addressing substance use challenges for example, should include psycho-social supports, be recovery –oriented and holistic. We’ve made progress to build out certain parts of the continuum, particularly in response to the overdose crisis, but the residential treatment and recovery components are still underdeveloped and underserved. I believe that in order to achieve a full continuum we first need to find a commonly accepted definition of “recovery” and of “treatment”. We need to continue our work on reducing stigma within our own sector so that we can respect and acknowledge the important work that happens at all levels.


3. Many community-based service organizations and the clients they serve have been deeply impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. What have been some unexpected challenges and sources of resiliency for your organization during this time? How is Turning Point adapting services to fit this new reality?


Turning Point – Vancouver

When the opioid crisis was declared in British Columbia, Turning Point, like our community partners, enhanced our existing programs and services to ensure our clients stayed safe; that staff had the appropriate training and supports, that our facilities were accessible and equipped to respond to emergency overdose situations. We learned about preparedness and have in many ways, used that work to inform our response to COVID. Staff and clients have received training; we instituted all of the recommended protocols and we’ve developed innovative ways of continuing to provide quality programming. The greatest challenge has been the significant loss of revenue by implementing new physical distancing protocols on site and maintaining staff and client morale. We are especially grateful for all of the resources that are designed to support people’s mental health during these unprecedented times.

4. Stigma is a large factor in why so many people do not reach out for help with substance use when they want it. In your years of experience working in the Mental Health/Substance Use sector, has anything stood out as a strong tool/method for reducing stigma?

I believe we’ve made great strides in reducing stigma by encouraging public dialogue about recovery; by breaking down barriers though public awareness raising events, and in engaging peers with lived-experience in our work and at policy development tables. In 2008 Turning Point held our first Annual Making Recovery a Reality Gala – it was the first fundraising event of its kind to raise money specifically for residential recovery programs and services. We’ve held this event annually for 13 years and raised close to a million dollars to support our work and expansion of our programs. People talk about and look forward to our event, media represents it and government officials and key businesses support and attend it and many of the other events like it. This is progress.  But we have a lot of work still to do. We need unanimous agreement across the sector, and with government and health care of an inclusive and comprehensive continuum of care. Currently, we are in the midst of a dual health care crisis; the increases in overdose deaths are staggering, and yet the response (although improving) is not sufficient. When we collectively acknowledge that addiction is not a choice and that the response to the overdose crisis warrants the same response as we are making with COVID, we will have made significant strides to reduce stigma.

5. What is something you are excited about?

Turning Point is a member of the BC Addition Recovery Association, a new non-profit society that was formed earlier this year by licensed and registered providers of residential addiction recovery care to help ensure that individuals seeking recovery have access to appropriate services related to substance use disorder recovery or substance addiction recovery. We hope to help inform and support the development and implementation of government and other regulatory bodies’ policies, standards and regulations related to substance use disorder recovery, and to act as a liaison or representative on behalf of substance use disorder recovery service providers, and other relevant stakeholders in British Columbia in dealings with provincial governments, the federal government, or other regulatory bodies in relation to substance use disorder recovery. This is exciting work!