The Ontario government has announced $343,000 in ongoing operational funding for the creation of a newly-renovated, 20-bed residential withdrawal management centre in Sault Ste. Marie.
Sault Ste. Marie MPP Ross Romano was joined virtually by Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott and Mental Health and Addictions Minister Michael Tibollo Thursday to make the announcement.
“Our entire community has been working so hard for so long to get to this point, and we’ve all been impacted by significant losses along the way,” said Romano in a news release issued Thursday. “For years, we have been pleading for an appropriate level of residential treatment and care for those struggling with mental health and addictions.”
“Today’s announcement is the single largest accomplishment to the grand opening of Sault Ste. Marie’s new community-based residential withdrawal management centre. This puts us on a pathway towards better services for people facing mental health and addiction challenges.”
The year-to-year funding is intended to cover ongoing expenses at the site including rent, food plans, laundry and other related operating costs.
It’s also the first step in securing a new site for the residential withdrawal management program administered by Sault Area Hospital. The renovated site, according to the news release, is expected to be completed in the “coming months.” The hospital still has to secure a lease agreement for the new site and receive a zoning amendment from the City of Sault Ste. Marie.
“We are pleased with the Ontario government’s support in the relocation of the community-based residential withdrawal management program from Sault Area Hospital to a new, dedicated site,” said Wendy Hansson, president and chief executive officer for Sault Area Hospital in the news release. “This program enhancement has been long sought in our community and will improve access to much-needed addictions care.”
Withdrawal management services, formerly referred to as detoxification services, were moved to Sault Area Hospital as a stop-gap measure after fire and flooding forced patients out of the original Queen Street East location in March of last year.
The new site is expected to provide a modern facility and improved access to 20 community-based residential withdrawal management and safe beds, while providing services including close observation, monitoring medical support and education about substance use. An additional four medical beds will be maintained at Sault Area Hospital for patients requiring a more acute level of addictions care.
Sault Ste. Marie City Council unanimously endorsed Sault Area Hospital’s proposal for residential withdrawal management services in February 2018, and again in April 2019.
“The opioid epidemic has had a dramatic and negative effect on our community in a number of different ways, most disconcerting is the loss of life. This will continue until the health care infrastructure available in our community to support people who need addiction, withdrawal and recovery services is commensurate to the need,” said Sault Ste. Mayor Christian Provenzano. “This announcement is an important step in that direction and I thank the provincial government for approving and funding Sault Area Hospital’s proposal. I also want to recognize and thank our health care and service providers who are working tirelessly every day to care for people in our community who need and rely on their support.”
Details on the new site and its eventual grand opening will be released in the coming weeks.
According to Algoma Public Health, there have been 42 opioid-related deaths in the public health region since the beginning of the pandemic to the end of 2020 - a significantly higher number than the 15 deaths that occurred in the same time period the previous year.