Addiction management unit opens

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By Pam Wright
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

In just seven months, a new 10-bed withdrawal management unit at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance has come to fruition.

On Friday, officials cut the ribbon and the bright and airy facility is now open to those seeking help for addiction.

CKHA CEO and president Lori Marshall called the opening a “milestone.

“We are so pleased to offer evidence-based addiction care and recovery for clients and their families in a modern and safe environment.”

Marshall said that in all her 35 years of experience as a health-care administrator, she’s never witnessed a project come together so quickly.

Citing generous donations from organizations and individuals, Marshall said the community “galvanized” around the need.

“I’ve never seen anything like it,” she added.

The 10-bed facility will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the CKHA Chatham site located in the former outpatient mental health services building.

In addition, the hospital’s Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic has also been moved and will be located adjacent to the withdrawal management service.

Alan Stevenson, vice-president of the CKHA Mental Health and Addictions Program, said locating the two services side by side will help provide “continuity of care.

“It has the potential to be ground breaking,” Stevenson said, noting that he’s not aware of the intersection of similar services elsewhere in Ontario.

“By locating the services together, we will be able to improve outcomes for patients,” he said.

Stephanie DeVito, clinical supervisor for the withdrawal management services, said the average stay for a patient is expected to be three to seven days on average.

And with a “big demand locally,” DeVito said she expects the unit to be full in as little as six months.

DeVito said staff will strive to create a non-judgmental atmosphere within the service as she showed off a message chalkboard located in the sparkling new kitchen area.

“We want people to feel welcome and comfortable,” DeVito stressed.

“This is a health care issue…addiction is an illness.”

There’s also the matter of keeping addiction services close to home.

“Many of our clients are motivated to make a change and have taken one of the most difficult steps of reaching out for help,” DeVito said, noting having the service in here in Chatham-Kent removes the barrier of being forced to go out of town for treatment.

April Rietdyk, general manager of health and family services for the municipality, told the gathering the opening is cause for celebration.

Rietdyk called it “another step forward” in the fight against addiction.

“We stand with you without stigma, without shame,” Rietdyk noted, “working together to save lives.”

The cost of renovating the facility for the WMS totalled $1.2 million and included support from many stakeholders. The Ministry of Health kicked in $100,000 for start-up equipment and furnishings; the Municipality of Chatham-Kent contributed $500,000 and the CKHA Foundation committed $450,000, with $155,000 of that coming from the United Way of Chatham-Kent. An additional $150,000 was pledged by the Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent.

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