Ontario to fund treatment beds for drug, alcohol withdrawal

Bluewater Health President and CEO Mike Lapaine, left, tours the Phase 2 addiction management facility on Exmouth Street with Michael Tibollo, Ontario’s Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. Submitted Photo

Troy Shantz

Sarnia is getting 12 more beds to help residents beat drug and alcohol addictions, Ontario says.

The facility will open Jan. 21 out of a house on Exmouth Street near Norm Perry Park and be staffed around the clock, seven days a week.

The move will add to seven existing withdrawal management beds at Bluewater Health, and is a much-needed stopgap until a planned 24-bed addiction centre can be established in the city, the hospital said.

For families struggling with addiction and its fallout the announcement was “incredible,” said Laurie Hicks, a local mom who lost her 25-year-old son Ryan to an opioid overdose in 2015.

“It opens the door for hope, and it closes the gap of service we were missing,” she said.

“It’s a great way to start the New Year.”

The Exmouth Street facility will provide Phase 2 programs and supervision in a home-like setting to those who have undergone detox at the hospital.

Patients who complete Phase 1 often have difficulty finding additional help in the community, triggering a relapse, said Paula Reaume-Zimmer, the hospital’s vice-president of mental health and addiction services.

“Demand for residential services has exceeded the (hospital’s) capacity,” she said. “(In) December alone, 93 individuals were declined withdrawal management services because we had no space.”

Provincial funding of $325,000 will support the facility for three months. It was announced during a virtual meeting last week of local officials and associate minister of mental health and addictions Michael Tibollo, who had seen the need locally during a visit to the hospital unit in September.

Mayor Mike Bradley, who has long advocated for a standalone addiction treatment facility in Sarnia, was delighted by the news.

“This is a landmark day for us,” he said. “This is just the beginning of the end to get to the full-scale facility.”

The new beds are part of a $147-million provincial pandemic spend on mental health and addiction.

Residents looking to access residential withdrawal management services can call 519-464-4487 to learn more about what’s available.