Addiction support unit approved

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

It’s official – funding for the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance’s residential withdrawal management (RWM) unit has been approved.

CKHA president and CEO Lori Marshall made the announcement at a municipal press conference last week, confirming the province will contribute $1.3-million to fund ongoing operations at the 10-bed unit.

The Ministry of Health announcement also included $100,000 in one-time funding to provide for equipment and furnishings.

Marshall called it a “significant milestone” for the hospital and Chatham-Kent with regard to evidence-based addiction care and recovery.

“I am so pleased that our proposal has received the green light and operational funding from Ontario Health,” Marshall said, adding it allows CKHA to take the next steps towards establishing a residential withdrawal management unit.

It’s a service that’s badly needed in the community, as Chatham-Kent is the only municipality in the region without a detox facility. In the 2020-21 fiscal year, 186 Chatham-Kent residents were admitted to RWM units in Windsor or Sarnia.

In the same timeframe, 562 patients were seen in either the Chatham or Wallaceburg emergency departments with a primary diagnosis of substance use disorder.

Officials said the new RWM unit will help alleviate the pressure wrought by addicted people on the health-care system.

The hospital, in conjunction with the CKHA Foundation, still needs to raise approximately $600,000 to revamp the building, but Marshall isn’t daunted by the prospect.

“I have seen an outpouring of support from the community with respect to this partnership,” Marshall said, adding she believes the foundation will be able to address the gaps in funding.

The Municipality of Chatham-Kent recently approved a $500,000 contribution towards the renovation in its 2022 budget.

Marshall said renovation work on the project has already begun, with completion slated for June. In the interim, a three-bed unit will be operated within the hospital and will begin accepting patients in March.

The new unit will be housed in the former mental health service building on Emma Street, along with the hospital’s Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinic.

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