New study reports on substance abuse service for Punjabi Sikh communities in Fraser Health Region


Gary Thandi
Gary Thandi

A new study by the non-profit agency Genesis Family Empowerment Society on substance abuse in South Asian Punjabi Sikh communities in Surrey reveals a large gap between community needs and the services that are in place. The Fraser Health Authority is responsible for substance abuse services in the Surrey region. The study suggests that front-line service providers like nurses, doctors, counsellors and social workers are all working tirelessly to address substance abuse in South Asian communities, but the problem remains and in fact is growing, and this may be because more culturally responsive services are more resources are needed.

“This study reveals some gaps – both in the lack of services afforded to Punjabi Sikh communities – and the fact that many of these services are not culturally and linguistically appropriate,” advises the study co-author Manraj Cheema. “It also points out greater need for collaboration among all service providers to address the needs of South Asian families.”

“This report clearly points out that the effects are not only felt by the person addicted to alcohol and other substances, but it is also felt by the person’s spouse, their parents, their extended family and their children. In fact, the negative impact on a family’s emotional wellness can last for generations,” advises Gary Thandi, another of the study’s authors. “If we can better address these needs, we can minimize the damage. Unfortunately, the need far outstrips current resources. While increased funding is needed, so too is the need for those of us in the field to think more innovatively in how we can address the social, emotional and health difficulties of these communities.”

The report suggests greater and more innovative outreach is needed to reach those suffering from alcohol and others substances abuse. “These community members may not come out to the mainstream services, like outpatient programs,” explains Cheema. “But this study suggests that they are showing up in hospitals with severe health problems related to alcohol and substance abuse. So innovative ways to reach them, ways that can connect with clients both culturally and in their first language, are necessary.”

“Many people suffering from addiction, or their family members, are still working, yet most services offered are on weekdays,” says Thandi. “South Asian community members could benefit from more services on evening and weekends. As well, we need to explore creative partnerships, such as providing services at doctor’s offices, which is where many addicts first turn for help.” Thandi adds that more services are also needed for substance-affected family members. “We know they are suffering, so we need to figure out ways to reach them too.”