A highly anticipated residential substance withdrawal and treatment centre will be opening in Brantford in the fall.
The centre, which will provide a short-term residential withdrawal program, as well as a longer residential treatment program, will be offered by St. Leonard’s Community Services at 135 Elgin St.
“We don’t have a firm date for opening as yet but I can say that it will be opening in the fall,” Brad Stark, the executive director of St. Leonard’s Community Services, said Wednesday.
He said renovation of the building has started and program details are being finalized.
Also underway is hiring of staff. Job postings can be found at www.st-leonards.com .
Plans call for the centre to offer a seven-bed short-term substance withdrawal program and a 10-bed five-week substance and treatment program. Both programs are co-ed.
“There is an urgent need for a residential treatment program in the community and this program is something that we knew we could get up and running by the fall,” Stark said. “This will help us start to fill a gap in the community.”
“I’m thrilled that after several years of hard determined effort by all stakeholders, we will finally have a residential treatment centre in Brantford,” said Mayor Kevin Davis said. “It has always been an important but missing piece of our drug and alcohol strategy.
“Treatment is a key pillar of the drug strategy and the long-awaited opening of the residential treatment program is a milestone in the city’s ongoing fight against the opioid epidemic.”
Over the past 18 months, the city has taken numerous steps to deal with an opioid crisis that municipalities across the country are struggling to combat, the mayor noted.
“I have talked to families in our community and heard heartbreaking stories about the struggle finding adequate care for a loved one coping with mental illness and addiction,” Davis said. “I commend the hard work of the staff at St. Leonard’s for making this needed facility a reality in Brantford.”
Meanwhile, the Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic, which opened at 347 Colborne St. in Brantford, is expanding its services. Plans call for the clinic to be open three days a week in Brantford instead of two and to be open one day a week in each of Simcoe and Dunnville.
The clinic, which opened last Sepetember, is a collaboration between St. Leonard’s, the Canadian Mental Health Association (Brant-Haldimand-Norfolk) and De dwa da dehs nye – the Aboriginal Health Centre.
The clinic will be getting provincial government support ,which will enable it to expand it services. At present, the clinic is open Tuesdays and Fridays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In addition, it was announced in May that the local branch of the CMHA will get about $1 million for programs, including the opening of an eight-bed addictions and withdrawal management SAFE Bed program. The program enables people with addictions a place to stay in their community and diverts them away from unnecessary hospitalization and incarcerations.
CMHA officials are in the process of securing a site for the program, which also plans to open in the fall.
“We’re really excited about this program and looking forward to helping to start filling in some of the gaps in service that we have in this community,” said Michael Benin, executive director of the CMHA local branch. “This has been a collaborative effort and we’re pleased to be part of that work and helping to address some of the needs in the community.”
The need for a residential substance withdrawal and treatment centre goes back to 2011 when then-Brant MPP Dave Levac identified it as priority. At the time, Levac said a local centre would be a much better option for people who now must to travel to Hamilton, Simcoe, Waterloo Region or London to get treatment.
In 2013, then-Mayor Chris Friel announced that the centre had been approved by the province. However, plans got bogged down by a number of factors, including changes at the Brant Community Healthcare System. Those issues have since been resolved, enabling plans for the centre to move ahead.
The Canadian Institute for Health Information identified the Brantford’s census metropolitan area as having the highest rate of hospitalization due to opioid poisoning in 2017. The census metropolitan area includes Brant County and part of Six Nations.
At that time, only Kelowna, B.C., had a higher rate.
Responding to the opioid crisis, local leaders worked to develop a strategy to combat the problem. Although progress in the struggle against opioid overdoses was reported in 2018, reports of suspected opioid overdoses in Brantford and Brant County rose starting in January 2019.
On a single weekend last March, first-responders had to deal with six overdoses, which included three deaths.