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New addiction treatment facility offering families hope

Published on

Cathy Dobson

Ontario has come through with two-thirds of the annual funding needed to keep Sarnia’s new 12-bed recovery facility open for residents trying to break drug and alcohol addictions.

Thirty-two people have already stayed at Ryan’s House, named for Ryan Hicks who died of a fentanyl overdose in 2015.

Since the facility opened in January, 11 people have remained for the entire 30-day program, says Paula Reaume-Zimmer, vice president of mental health and addiction services at Bluewater Health.

“That’s a fantastic outcome in the first few months,” she said. “Every time I leave Ryan’s House, I feel the biggest sense of hope.”

The facility augments a seven-bed withdrawal management unit at the hospital where people stay an average three to five days.

“It provides a next step for individuals looking to further strengthen their recovery plan,” said Reaume-Zimmer. “It gives the individual time to stabilize and make a commitment to a better life.”

It’s hoped Ryan’s House will be a stepping stone to a longer-term rehabilitation program, like that offered by Westover Treatment Centre in Thamesville.

“We know five days in a withdrawal management program isn’t enough to firm up a plan,” said Reaume-Zimmer, speaking at a meeting of the Golden K Kiwanis Club of Sarnia-Lambton.

While giving residents structure, a supportive environment and hope, Ryan’s House is also expected to reduce readmissions to the hospital’s busy detox unit.

“We may get 20 calls a day for a bed in detox and can only admit, maybe, five,” said Reaume-Zimmer. “There is far more demand than can be met.”

Sarnia’s escalating addiction problem moved Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Mental Health & Addictions, to provide two months of funding to open Ryan’s House in January in a former city group home.

The subsequent announcement for $650,000 of the $1 million needed annually has provided some stability.

That leaves about $350,000 to be fundraised each year until Sarnia receives full funding for the 24-bed permanent rehabilitation facility it’s been seeking for two decades.

Reaume-Zimmer said over $200,000 has been raised for this year.

Despite its 12-bed capacity, Ryan’s House is using no more than eight beds during the pandemic to meet distancing and other protocols, she said.

“We have been privileged to be part of some very important life changing moments for clients and their families,” she added.

“We see each of the 32 clients we have served as a success because even one more day clean, sober and safe is something to celebrate.”

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