Addiction Services Now Easier to Access for South Simcoe Residents
Rapid-access addiction medicine clinic open every Friday morning in Alliston
A new clinic in the community is removing the barriers people often face when it comes to seeking treatment for substance abuse.
“The stigma around addictions makes it hard for people to be able to admit to friends or family they have a problem,” said Penny Marrett, executive director of Addiction Services for York Region (ASYR), the organization that runs the new rapid-access addiction medicine (RAAM) clinic at the Mary McGill Mental Health centre in Alliston. “So when you come to see us, we’re not going to be telling anybody you’re here. It’s all confidential.”
The low-barrier drop-in clinic started operating at the end of November at the health centre next to Stevenson Memorial Hospital. It provides South Simcoe residents who have alcohol-, opioid- and other drug-related addictions with same-day counselling services every Friday from 10 a.m. to noon. The clinic also helps people with problem gambling.
Everyone who visits the clinic is seen by the registered practical nurse, and what happens from there depends on what the patients’ needs are.
Those who need pharmaceuticals are connected with an addiction-medicine specialist via telemedicine, and the clinic can also provide access to counselling and peer-support services.
“We work together with the patients to develop a treatment plan for them,” she said.
Marrett said the clinic is a first for the area and is filling a critical service gap.
“Before this, people may have landed in the emergency department or not received any services at all,” she said.
She said ASYR was involved in a project in 2016-17 when the program was offered in hospitals in downtown Toronto. It was deemed successful and expanded into community hospitals.
Although the clinic is open only on Friday mornings, Marrett said they will be reassessing the program on a regular basis to see if it should be expanded.
“We are learning, so if there are things we need to tweak, we will tweak it,” she said.
The clinic is a result of a partnership between ASYR and Stevenson Memorial, which donates the space to the organization.
“Our team strives to be extremely responsive to the needs of our community, and this partnership with Addiction Services of York Region is a great example of that promise,” said hospital president and CEO Jody Levac. “We recognize the Ontario government’s commitment to tackling the opioid crisis that is affecting communities across the province, and we’re doing our part to provide accessible and responsive care for our community.”
In 2018, Stevenson Memorial Hospital recorded 17 cases of people going to the emergency room due to opioid use. While only four were recorded in 2017, the tracking code didn’t come into use until the middle of the year.
ASYR is also opening an office at the Millpond Medical Centre, in downtown Alliston, to provide counselling and case-management services to all of South Simcoe.
Anyone who visits the clinic just needs to take their OHIP card.