With January as the deadliest month on record of opioid-related deaths in the Peterborough area, officials on Monday say a proposed residential detox and addiction treatment site could be a “game-changer.”
The joint proposal from the Canadian Mental Health Association Haliburton Kawartha Pine Ridge and community-based addiction treatment provider FourCast aims to establish a 12-bed service (six detox, six treatment) to help address the growing opioid crisis in the region.
A location for the site has not been determined yet but the program would serve Peterborough, Peterborough County, City of Kawartha Lakes, Curve Lake First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Northumberland County and Haliburton County.
Peterborough Public Health’s opioid harms data portal reported a record 10 suspected opioid-related deaths in January 2023 and 59 suspected fatal drug poisoning in 2022 within the health unit’s jurisdiction — an average of one person every seven days. Emergency medical services responded to 357 opioid poisoning 911 calls in 2022 and 539 individuals attended a hospital emergency department for a drug poisoning in 2022.
Donna Rogers with FourCast says the addition of withdrawal management and adult residential treatment would complement its existing services and provide “more support opportunities” for individuals who want to make changes to their substance use.
“People who struggle with substance abuse and addictions need many options to navigate their recovery journey,” she said. “A collaborative partnership with CMHA has enabled us to submit a strong proposal for funding to the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care that we hope is met with a favorable outcome.”
Added Mark Graham, CEO of CMHA HKPR: “There is a significant need for services of this nature, which do not currently exist in our catchment.”
The proposed residential detox/addiction treatment site would begin as a two-year pilot, leveraging $1.13 million of funding per year from Ontario’s Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions. The project requires additional funding from community partners to establish the facility and to demonstrate to Ontario Health that the “community supports a residential based treatment option to help local individuals combat the ongoing opioid crisis,” a release stated.
The project currently has a $300,000 shortfall. Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith said he would be addressing Peterborough city and county about possible funding support.
On Monday night during city council’s meeting, a motion by Mayor Jeff Leal to provide $100,000 for each of the two years of the pilot received unanimous approval.
“Addiction treatment services, especially increasing the availability of beds for in-patient rehabilitation services for people experiencing more complex or chronic substance use, are essential for the wellbeing of individuals and families in our community,” Leal stated.
“We need more detox beds as part of the spectrum of services that are provided by health care professionals and organizations in Peterborough, such as the provincially supported Consumption and Treatment Services site operated by Fourcast. I applaud Peterborough-Kawartha MPP Dave Smith and the provincial government for their leadership on this critical issue.”
Update Feb. 15:
On Wednesday morning, Smith, Graham and Rogers made a presentation to Peterborough County council highlighting the proposal. Following the presentation, Peterborough County councillors voted in favour of a motion to provide the project $100,000 both in 2023 and 2024. Council also agreed to send a letter of support to Smith’s office in support of the application for funding. And that “the commitment and financial contribution from all municipal partners including the City of Peterborough, the City of Kawartha Lakes, the County of Haliburton, and the County of Northumberland be encouraged.”
Dr. Thomas Piggott, medical officer of health for Peterborough Public Health, says harm reduction, treatment, prevention and community safety are four “critical” pillars to respond to the opioid crisis.
“Peterborough Public Health welcomes this proposal for more local treatment and detox services, and the opportunity it creates to strengthen our response to the drug poisoning crisis, Piggott said.
“Along with the Peterborough Drug Strategy partners we have been advocating for more tools to address the crisis for over a decade. If funded this will become a critical part of the local response.”
The pilot project is also receiving an endorsement from the Peterborough Regional Health Centre, Peterborough County-City Paramedics and Peterborough Police Service.
Dr. Lynn Mikula, PRHC’s chief of staff and chief medical executive, says the hospital “strongly supports” the proposal.
“If successful, this program will work to meet clients’ complex needs in collaboration with many partners — including the hospital, emergency services, social services, and other mental health and addictions service partners — by offering medically-supported, evidence-based interventions and care,” she said.
Paramedics chief Randy Mellow said staff have responded to “unprecedented and alarming numbers of calls related to mental health and addictions” in recent years.
“While the interactions that paramedics have with these patients in crisis is critical and often life-saving, these interactions are often missed unique and valuable opportunities to provide access to the treatment and resources for these individuals,” he said Tuesday.
“In our view, this announcement today is forming another critical link in the chain of survival for the mental health and addictions crisis in our community. Our paramedic service is proud to be a part of a community committed that understands that linked programs focused on prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and recovery is key to saving lives and reducing suffering.”
Police chief Stu Betts said the program will help those facing mental health and addiction issues. He noted officers “shouldn’t necessarily” be the primary response to those types of health-related calls but are often tasked to them.
“Clearly, mental health and addiction are not criminal but can lead to criminal behaviour — we don’t want that –—our job is to keep the community safe and I see this type of program as a way to assist us in that goal,” he said.
Smith said the project will be a “game-changer” in the local fight against opioid poisonings and deaths.
“I have said many times that you don’t get better by getting high, you get better by finding the treatment that works for you,” he said.
“Over the last number of years, we have been building more options for pathways to treatment in our community to help individuals fighting the demons of addiction. If successful, this initiative will provide our community with one more tool in the tool box that we do not currently have in our fight against addiction. I can’t thank CMHA HKPR and Fourcast enough for answering the call and working collaboratively with me to develop this proposal.”