Lambton County politicians want Bluewater Health to explain the “glacial” pace of building a new detox centre.
Sarnia Mayor Mike Bradley says it has been four years since the Erie-St. Clair LHIN met with county councillors and agreed to move forward on a 10-bed facility to help solve the community’s addiction problem.
To receive provincial funding for the centre, a hospital had to be involved. Bluewater Health took on the project and has since set up community programs but Bradley says it appears building the actual withdrawal management unit is still years off.
“They still haven’t got the property which means we could be 18 months or two years away from this,” he told councillors at a recent committee meeting. Councillors received a report from staff on the progress of the unit, but Bradley wasn’t satisfied.
“There seems to be a reluctance to share with us what’s going on especially on location.”
St. Clair Township Mayor Steve Arnold, who was warden when the county moved the project forward, is also frustrated. “We wanted to get the property first because that in itself is an arduous process to get the options,” he says noting a withdrawal management centre can only go in certain neighbourhoods and that zoning is only found in the city. “We’re not even there again now,” says Arnold.
While the politicians are frustrated with the pace, Andrew Taylor, the county’s general manager of public health services, the detox centre is moving along. He sits on the committee which is putting the project together. “This is moving forward and it is on a good track.”
Taylor says the project is now for 24 beds and will be under $10 million which means it won’t have to go through as many approval hurdles. Taylor says Bluewater Health will have a much better idea of when the facility can be built once it begins the first of five steps in getting capital projects approved.
But the politicians say that’s not good enough. “We thought we were on the fast track…but it seems to be getting lost in that mire again. It’s like we’re caught in the quicksand,” says Arnold.
Councillors agreed to ask Bluewater Health officials to come to the March County Council meeting to explain where the project stands and how local politicians can help move the process forward.