Progress made on residential detox and mental health centre

Bluewater Health. Troy Shantz

Troy Shantz

Bluewater Health is a step closer to building an addiction and mental-health support centre in Sarnia.

The hospital recently received a $200,000 planning grant from the Ontario government to find a site and begin planning for an $8.4-million, 24-bed facility to house an Integrated Withdrawal Management program.

“Essentially, it allows us to work with our consultants and our community stakeholders to put more detail around the program planning,” said Paula Reaume-Zimmer, VP of mental health and addiction at Bluewater Health.

“This puts us into the process of site selection.”

Reaume-Zimmer said the tender is out to retain a real estate broker, who will build a short list of appropriate sites.

The sites will be considered based on the size of the property, proximity to the emergency department, and access to public transportation.

The centre will be less structured than a hospital setting and designed to treat and accommodate mental health and addiction clients.

Additional staffing will be needed, Reaume-Zimmer said.

“It’s 24 beds, so it requires health-care provider staff to support the needs of the patients,” she said.

“Often, withdrawal management programs have certified chemical dependency workers.”

Once a site is selected and planning underway, the project will need the Local Health Integration Network’s endorsement and provincial approval.

If all goes as planned, the application will advance to stage three and the release of funds, securing of the site and awarding contracts for construction.

Reaume-Zimmer said it’s too early to say when shovels might break ground.

“We’re very fortunate. We have very strong support from community members, from council members, from partners in our organization,” she said.

“Everybody has recognized the need for the resource and are fully supportive of going forward.”

A proposal to redevelop the former Sarnia General Hospital lands recently approved by council includes space for medical uses, such as a withdrawal management program.

Reaume-Zimmer said the hospital will rely on the potential sites identified by the broker, a list that could be ready by the end of this month.

Much of the centre’s funding would come from $190 billion pledged by the province in 2014 to improve hospitals, schools, public transit, roads and bridges.