Half of the people in Lambton looking for a detox bed turned away

Drug-Free Canada Photo Methamphetamine

Heather Wright
The Independent

Half of the people looking for a residential program to kick drugs or alcohol in Sarnia and Lambton County are turned away.

That from Paula Reaume-Zimmer, Bluewater Health’s vice president of mental health and addictions.

As the hospital marked overdose awareness month, Reaume-Zimmer says there were fewer people coming to the emergency room and calling an ambulance in the last six months because of fears over being infected with COVID-19 at the hospital.

ER visits dropped 21 per cent over the same time last year and ambulance calls dropped 11 per cent. Lambton’s emergency department’s opioid related visits are still higher than the provincial average.

And even more telling is how many people are being turned away. Reaume-Zimmer says they recently started tracking how many callers they could not find residential treatment programs.

“We decline almost 50 per cent of the callers for residential withdrawal management.,” she says. “So with the demand, people are reaching out now, and so it’s really maxing out what our capacity has available.”

Reaume-Zimmer says the statistics underscore how critical a new residential program is in Sarnia. Bluewater Health has a unit which provides out patient programs however the seven-year-bid to build a residential treatment program in Lambton is dragging along.

It has been in the hands of the provincial government for years. Reaume-Zimmer says they are still working through approvals and hope to select a site soon.