Contact Us

Reach us by phone, fax, email us or drop into the office closest to you. If you are looking for a staff member, use the links below for individual email addresses. Our office hours for all EKASS locations are weekdays 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, closed for all statutory holidays. All inquiries are kept confidential. We look forward to hearing from you.


Office address: 202 - 1617 Baker Street
Phone: 1.877.489.4344  Fax:1.250.489.1020

Dean Nicholson
Executive Director/Substance Use Counsellor
Eleine Gordon
Substance Use Counsellor
Deb Sims
Harm Reduction Team
Kari Olson
Substance Use Counsellor
Maureen Smith
Substance Use Counsellor
Cam Strachan
Substance Use Counsellor
Rob Toller
Substance Use Counsellor
Shayne Bettke
Administrative Coordinator
Stephanie Kress
Receptionist/Administrative Support 

Theresa Bartraw
Regional Youth Substance Use Education Coordinator 


We provide counselling services on Tuesdays at the Marysville Business Centre at #312 304th Street, Kimberley, BC V1A 3H3. For more information call please call 250-427-2449 or the Cranbrook office 1.877.489.4344


Office address: 1221-E 7th Ave, PO Box 2049, Fernie BC, V0B 1M1

Phone:1.800.644.6144  Fax:1.250.423.6698

Deb Martin
Receptionist/Administrative Support
Gareth Webb
Youth Substance Use Counsellor
Kari Mertz
Adult Substance Use Counsellor


Office address: Golden Family Centre at 421 9th Avenue
Phone: 1.250.344.2000  Fax:1.250.344.5225

Justin Telfer
Youth Substance Use Counsellor


Office address: 1022A 7th Ave, Invermere BC, V0A 1K0 

(Entrance in back lane) 

Phone: 1.250.342.3868  Fax:1.778.526.5019

John Meyer
Adult Substance Use Counsellor
Matthew Chapman
Youth Substance Use Counsellor


Office address: PO Box 187, 915 Pine Street, Creston BC, V0B 1G0
Phone: 1.250.428.3036  Fax:1.250.428.5175

Bryce Loughran
Youth Substance Use Counsellor 


Recent Posts

  • Addictions Treatment - Different options

    Posted on: 14-Feb-2020

    Posted by EKASS | on 14-Feb-2020 Addictions Treatment - Different options

    This is the second of two articles regarding information about treatment -- what it is and what it isn't' and the different formats that describe treatment. The series is written by East Kootenay Addiction Services' Executive Director, Dean Nicholson. The article below does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of East Kootenay Addiction Services.

    As a new story seems to come out daily about the fentanyl problem and what’s being done to address it, it would be understandable if many people were confused about what services and programs are available to assist people with substance use problems.  This article will outline some of the major components and approaches to substance use treatment and how they relate to the current fentanyl problem. 

    Firstly, it must be said that not everyone who is experiencing a problem with substances such as alcohol, marijuana, cocaine or fentanyl is necessarily ‘addicted’ in the strict clinical term.  Substance use falls along a continuum from ‘no-use’ through ‘social use’ through ‘problematic use’, and finally ‘dependent or addicted use’.  The type of services that could help will depend on where a person’s use falls on the continuum and what changes they want to make.

    Secondly, substance use problems are no longer viewed as a ‘stand-alone’ issue.  It is generally recognized that most people who struggle with substance use problems also have other concerns, such as depression or anxiety, housing and financial problems, relationship problems etc.  It is not enough to deal with the substance use; to make lasting change people often need support in a number of areas of their lives.

    With this being said, what are the different components of substance use treatment?  At East Kootenay Addictions Services (EKASS) we believe that treatment starts as soon as someone contacts us.  Reaching out for help means treatment has begun.    After that there are various services that a person could become involved with depending on their situation.

    Withdrawal Management:  Often referred to as ‘detox’ or a ‘dry out center’.  Withdrawal management assists people in the initial physical withdrawal that they may experience as they stop using substances.  This could take place at home with outside support, in a withdrawal management center such as Ponderosa House in Cranbrook, or at a local hospital when other medical complications might be present.  People are usually only in a withdrawal program for 5-10 days, depending on the substance, although some substances may take longer to taper off of.  There is no cost for approved withdrawal management services.

    Outpatient Counselling:  Outpatient counselling is often the first type of treatment that people access.  People are seen by a trained substance use counsellor who assists them in identifying the problems they are having, developing goals, implementing strategies and connecting them with other services that may be helpful.  At EKASS we see people at our offices, but can also meet people at other locations if that is easier.  There are no costs for people to access outpatient counselling at provincially funded mental health and substance use offices.

    Residential Treatment Programs:  This is what most people think of as ‘treatment’ although in reality it is just one type of service.  Residential Programs can run from 6 weeks up to 3 months or more.  The programs offer group counselling in a secure live-in environment.   In B.C. some programs have been accredited and some have not.  Being accredited means that the program has been thoroughly reviewed by an outside evaluator and that the treatment program, the facilities, the staff and the policies all meet an accepted level.  All residential treatment programs have a cost for the user.  If a residential program is run by an accredited not-for-profit society and has an agreement with the Ministry of Health, then a number of beds will be subsidized as $40.00 per day beds.  People usually access these beds through a referral from an substance use counsellor. For people on Income Assistance the program costs are usually covered.   Non-subsidized beds in not-for-profit programs typically run around $120.00 per day.  People can access these beds without a referral from a substance use counsellor.  Private for-profit residential programs can cost upwards of $15,000 per month.  The philosophy of treatment at residential programs generally falls into one of two approaches:  12 Step Programs and Holistic Programs.  The main difference between these approaches is the emphasis on the 12 Step or Minnesota Model of recovery.  Both types of programs use group counselling as a primary counselling strategy. Aboriginal residential programs will usually include aboriginal healing practices as well.  Helping people find the program that is the best match for them is part of what an substance use counsellor does when working with a client.  Residential programs have waitlists, but these can vary from a few days to a number of months, depending on the program.

    Harm Reduction Programming:  In one sense all substance use programming aims to reduce the harms associated with using.  In a more specific sense though, in relation to the fentanyl crisis this can refer to two types of programming:  Opioid Replacement Programs and the Take Home Naloxone Program. 

    Opioid Replacement Programs: are programs that help someone get off of opioids like heroin, morphine, fentanyl etc, by replacing them with another opioid, such as Methadone or Suboxone.  The purpose of going on Methadone or Suboxone is to prevent the person from going into withdrawal.  Avoiding the pain and sickness associated with withdrawal from opioids is usually the primary reason people keep using.  By having a regular dose of Methadone or Suboxone a person does not go into withdrawal and does not have to engage in the kinds of behaviours that will allow them to keep using.  People are able to stabilize their lives and begin to work on changing other problem areas.  When they are on the proper dose, people do not experience a ‘high’ from Methadone or Suboxone.  There is a lot of monitoring that goes with the program.  In the early stages people often have to get their medication each morning at a pharmacy.  They will have meetings with the prescribing physician every two to four weeks, and they will be required to provide urine samples to show that they are not misusing other opioids.  Despite some of the restrictions these requirements place on a person, research shows that people on an Opioid Replacement Program are less likely to relapse and go back to using.  This means they are at less risk of overdose than people who try to quit opioids on their own.   Furthermore, when people are maintained on an Opioid Replacement Program they are able to create stability in their lives and began working on other concerns to further improve their well-being.   Although any doctor can prescribe Suboxone after a short on-line course, one of the biggest barriers for people getting on to an Opioid Replacement Program is the lack of prescribing doctors.  At EKASS we operate a weekly Telehealth Clinic in which our clients have access to a prescribing doctor in Kamloops. 

    Take Home Naloxone Program:  The Take Home Naloxone Program was developed in large part in response to the fentanyl crisis.  Naloxone or Narcan is a drug that when taken helps to reverse an opioid overdose.  Naloxone has been around for decades and has been used by paramedics and hospital emergency departments.  In B.C. the Take Home Naloxone Program has sought to get Naloxone kits into the hands of people at risk for opioid overdose.  Kits are available at a wide range of locations and eligible people can receive a free kit after taking part in a short training program.  At EKASS we have been dispensing kits for nearly two years, and there are many other locations in the East Kootenay where people can receive free kits.


    This article has described some of the common components of addictions treatment in British Columbia.  For more information about services offered through EKASS please visit our website at or call us at 1-800-489-4344.

  • Addictions Treatment – What it is, and what it isn’t

    Posted on: 03-Feb-2020

    Posted by EKASS | on 03-Feb-2020 Addictions Treatment – What it is, and what it isn’t

    This is the first of two articles regarding information about treatment -- what it is and what it isn't' and the different formats that describe treatment. The series is written by East Kootenay Addiction Services' Executive Director, Dean Nicholson. The article below does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of East Kootenay Addiction Services. 

    Over the past number of months there has been a lot of media focus on the fentanyl crisis in B.C.  Many of the stories have talked about the lack of treatment, or the wait for treatment, often with the subtext that if people could have gotten treatment than the problem would have been solved.  But what exactly is ‘addictions treatment’ and how does it work?

    We typically think of ‘treatment’ as some kind of intervention that brings about a ‘cure’ or an end to the problems we’ve been having.  Antibiotics are a good example.  We are sick with an infection, we do a treatment of antibiotics which kills the bacteria, and in a few weeks we are back to our normal health.  Dealing with addiction problems is very different.   Addictions treatment does not provide a ‘cure’, nor does the problem go away.  ‘Treatment Centers’ are programs where individuals typically stay for 2-3 months.  These programs provide structure, opportunity for group and individual counselling and support, education, safety, regular food and social connection.  But despite what certain programs might say, they cannot provide a ‘cure’ to addiction.  Any program that promises to cure someone of their addiction is selling a bill of goods.

    Why isn’t there a cure for addiction or substance abuse?  Addiction and substance abuse are basically brain disorders.  People use substances for a variety of reasons, but one of the main reasons is because they like the way substances make them feel, at least in the beginning.  Our brain is designed to turn behaviours that we do repeatedly into habits.   The thinking part of our brain doesn’t have to be involved as much, and a deeper part of our brain controls the behaviour.  Think of driving a car – when we first learned we had to pay attention to every single thing we had to do – braking, accelerating, signaling etc.  After a few months we could do most of that without actually thinking about it.  Much of driving had become habitual.  The same thing happens when we use substances.  If we use a substance enough times our brain develops a habit for using, or for using to feel a certain way.   We don’t have to think about how to use, a deeper part of the brain makes it happen.   If we use certain substances long enough, the brain actually goes through physical changes, so that the substance use is regarded as essential to feel a certain way.  As a person progresses from social use to habitual use to addicted use, the amount of choice and control that the person has over using decreases.  When a person has developed an addiction, there is a part of their brain that will control their behaviour and compel them use the substance even when they know it is harming them or that it could kill them. 

    The good news is that the brain is remarkably able to rewire itself.  New habits can be learned to replace old harmful habits.  But just as it takes time to develop a habit or an addiction, so too does it take to develop new ways of behaving.  The reality of addiction is that there is no simple way to change a brain.  Even when people want to stop using recovery is a long-term process, often with many setbacks, that requires a lot of effort.  Factor in that many people are ambivalent about changing or stopping their use, and the process becomes even more difficult.  Difficult doesn’t mean impossible, but it does mean that there is no simple ‘cure’, no ‘treatment’ that can be imposed on someone that will make their brain automatically change. 

    As a culture we have come to believe that there should be quick fixes.  We don’t like to be uncomfortable or to suffer.  We have a society built around instant gratification.  This expectation is part of what fuels people getting in to trouble with substances, and then it becomes part of what fuels people having unrealistic expectations about recovery.  Does this mean there is no hope?  Absolutely not.  Every day at East Kootenay Addiction Services we see people who are learning to reorganize their lives, develop new skills and move away from addiction towards happy and fulfilling lives.  And what makes those people successful?  They have come to recognize that there isn’t a quick fix.  Life requires ongoing effort and focus, whether that is recovering from an addiction, having a family, or building a career.  Accepting that recovery is a process and not a cure has allowed those people to work realistically and productively towards better lives.

  • Ready for the Holiday Season
  • Ready for the Holiday Season

    Posted on: 14-Dec-2019

    Posted by EKASS | on 14-Dec-2019 Ready for the Holiday Season

    This is the third article in a series on Mindfulness written by Maureen Smith. Maureen is a Substance Use Counsellor at East Kootenay Addiction Services who has an interest in Mindfulness and finding creative ways to incorporate it into her counselling practice. To read more about Mindfulness and how it relates to Substance Use visit our page about Mindfulness in the Resources/Adult section of our website. The article below does not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of East Kootenay Addiction Services.

    If you are feeling uncertain about the upcoming holiday season, that is OK.  Realize that recognizing you are feeling indicates you are self-aware.  That is fantastic!  Here are some ideas to help you navigate through the next month whether you are up-to-your-eyeballs-busy or feel you have way too much time on your hands.  You don’t have to be a Grinch, a Santa or a saint. Just begin to be more self-aware of what is happening as it is happening.  Starting today, why not spend at least part of this season being with yourself in ways that renew and strengthen your health.  So many of the problems we experience arise because we are ‘somewhere else’ in our mind, rather than in the moment.  Give yourself and your loved ones the gift of presence.

    Use the count down to the end of the year as a way to honour and celebrate what you have.  Notice your thoughts right now as you read these words.  Do you tend to think of the negative or the positive?  Congratulations!  You just gave yourself the gift of being more self-aware.  There are many ways to celebrate what you have.  Use my ideas or come up with some of your own.  There are many suggestions on how to be more in the moment day to day.  You might find ideas on-line or in the library. They don’t have to cost money.  Instead of shopping why not try investing in your relationships by spending time and focused energy?   You might choose to write in a gratitude journal.  Or what if you chose to eat one of those famous Christmas oranges slowly and mindfully?  

    Set a timer and give yourself 10 – 20 minutes.  You will have to slow right down. Start by looking at the orange (you can use any piece of food), even before you pick it up.  Then hold it and feel its bumps or smoothness, its coolness or warmth.  Look at how the light and shadow play across its surface.  Really look at it.   Marvel at it being here in your hand. Imagine the factors and people that contributed to this marvelous fruit and you coming together.  So many circumstances supported this event: the fertile soil on planet earth, sunlight from 150 million kilometers away, rain from the atmosphere, someone planted a tree and cared for it through the years.  First cultivated in China in 2500 BC, we are benefitting from centuries of human labour and knowledge. Eating them creates energy and life in our bodies through the amazing processes of ingestion, digestion and elimination.  You may have eaten other oranges, but never this one.  This one sitting in your hand right now is unique unto itself.  There are millions of oranges in the world very similar to this one.  You, in this moment with this particular fruit on this day, in this year are completely distinct.  It is a unique and precious circumstance.    

    I invite you to relish in all it means to be alive!  Embrace the gift of stopping what you are doing and giving yourself some space from everything else.   For a few minutes every day completely BE with the process of appreciating, examining, smelling, feeling, listening and tasting.

    A million miracles are held within the fruit, within you and within the process that brought you together.  Ahhhhh.  Slowing down and appreciating the wondrous nature of life helps us to live in joy and gratitude.  


Upcoming Events

  • Mindfulness Series
    Event Date: 25-Feb-2020
  • Mindfulness Series

    Event Date: 25-Feb-2020

    Posted by EKASS | on 14-Feb-2020 Mindfulness Series

    Tuesday, February 25 is the first session in a four-part series on Mindfulness. Sessions run until March 17 from 9 -11 am each Tuesday at the EKASS office, #202, 1617 Baker Street in Cranbrook.

  • Teen Empowerment and Mastery Program
    Event Date: 4-May-2020
  • Teen Empowerment and Mastery Program

    Event Date: 4-May-2020

    Posted by EKASS | on 14-Feb-2020 Teen Empowerment and Mastery Program

    Communities throughout the East Kootenay region will be holding the Teen Empowerment and Mastery (TEAM) Program in May and June of 2020. Click here to learn more about TEAM. If you are a young person interested in attending TEAM contact us at 1-877-489-4344 for more information.

  • International Overdose Awareness Day
    Event Date: 31-Aug-2020
  • International Overdose Awareness Day

    Event Date: 31-Aug-2020

    Posted by Theresa Bartraw | on 28-Jul-2017 International Overdose Awareness Day

    International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD) is a global event held on August 31st each year and aims to raise awareness of overdose and reduce the stigma of a drug-related death. It also acknowledges the grief felt by families and friends remembering those who have met with death or permanent injury as a result of drug overdose.

    Overdose Awareness Day spreads the message that the tragedy of overdose death is preventable. Wear Silver to show your support.