Withdrawal management center gets the green light; construction two years out

File Photo Bluewater Health,

Bailey announces $12.2 million in capital funding

After more than a decade of waiting, the province has finally approved a withdrawal management center in Lambton. But it is likely to take two years before construction even begins.

Bluewater Health officials and Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey announced a one-time capital grant for the project up to $12,231,200 to move into the planning, tender, and design phase of the project.

“This long-awaited news is so welcomed,” says MPP Bob Bailey. “Our community has been experiencing an addictions crisis for several years now, having been especially heightened by the impact of the pandemic over the last two years. I’m so proud that we are moving into the next phase of this project,
and that we were able to address the community’s cry for help.”

Fifteen years ago, Lambton County councillors called for a withdrawal management centre, putting $250,000 aside to help. But their calls seemed to be unheard.

Three years after that, Bluewater Health started planning for a 24-bed withdrawal management treatment facility but the work was slow. Four years ago, Bluewater Health opened the first seven withdrawal management beds in existing hospital space. Last year, the doors opened to the new temporary 12-bed withdrawal management stabilization and transitional facility, commonly known as Ryan’s House.

Today’s announcement will see services consolidated in an unused wing of the hospital which fronts on Russell Street. Once completed it will be a self-contained centre with a private entrance.

“We are very grateful for this provincial commitment and look forward to the next steps in completing a permanent Community Addictions Hub to support our community’s growing needs,” says Bluewater Health President & CEO, Mike Lapaine who said intense planning is underway to get construction.

“The next step of this process is really to get our architects work to put together a plan that’s ready to take to tender. So, we would hope that in less than two years we should be under construction.”

The Community Addictions Hub will include 10 withdrawal management beds, eight observation for acute withdrawal phase, and six stabilization/transitional beds.

“We’ve referenced this so many times in the past and it’s just so exciting to finally be at this point,” said Paula Reaume Zimmer, the vice president of Mental Health and Addictions at Bluewater Health , and heads up the project.

And Lori Hicks, who has been advocating for withdrawal management services since her son died of an overdose, said she could barely stop from jumping out of her chair with joy during the virtual announcement.

“I think a key with addiction is when somebody has made that decision to change their life, they need the bed now, not calling back every day for a week or two weeks,” she says. “And and we’re going to be able to do that. And to know that the wait is not going to be there anymore – that there’s going to be a place to save a life – it’s huge.”