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Group to keep pushing for permanent rehab centre

Published on

Tara Jeffrey

The $12-million announced for an ‘Addictions Hub’ in Sarnia was a great start, but still doesn’t address an important community need, a local advocacy group says.

The 24-bed facility will focus on early-stage recovery but it won’t create the rehab centre some had hoped for – like Westover Treatment Centre in Thamesville or Brentwood Recovery Home in Windsor – which focus on longer-term recovery.

“We as a community should be very happy about the funding that was received — no question,” said Margaret Capes, a retired lawyer who heads the Community Law School’s Social Justice Advocacy Group. “But that should be a start, not an end.”

Since last month’s announcement, residents have asked the Advocacy Group whether the funding will create a permanent residential rehab centre for the community.

It will not, the group said in a release.

“People who pass through the withdrawal management phase will still be required to leave our area if they need such services.”

The 24-bed facility coming to Bluewater Health will include five new beds and consolidate what’s already in the community — seven existing withdrawal management beds at the hospital and 12 stabilization and transition beds at Ryan’s House.

“The planning was always for a residential withdrawal management centre,” said Paula Reaume-Zimmer, the hospital’s integrated vice president of mental health and addiction services.

“It isn’t a permanent rehab centre like Westover, and that wasn’t the ask in the initial submission.

“Unless you’ve experienced the system, the community at large may not understand the differences,” she added. “It’s an addictions hub with 24 beds — so that means residential. If someone wants to go on to a rehab facility such as Westover, we work very closely with them and our ideal situation is, they go from our door, directly to Westover.”

But that’s not always the case, said Capes.

“If you go through detox in Sarnia — for seven days or 30 days, whatever it might be — you’re probably still waiting to go to Westover. People fall through the cracks during that time,” she said. “There’s a lot of people in our community who have left to go to rehab and for some of them it’s worked; for some of them it hasn’t, because being extracted from their supports locally, has not worked.”

Reaume-Zimmer said most folks seeking treatment locally want outpatient services. “They want to live at home, they want to attend their work, but they need assistance with substance use disorders,” she said.

“I think we have to take one step at a time and know that this is a substantial investment,” she added. “Our community is so behind mental health and addictions; we’re very fortunate that we have such a vocal community and supportive one.”

The Social Justice Advocacy Group intends to keep pushing for a permanent rehabilitation centre, Capes said.

That means meeting with local and elected officials to ensure addiction stays top of mind in this, an election year, she said.

“This is just the beginning — not an ending — to this conversation.”



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