New service addresses opioid crisis

As accidental overdoses spike, there is new help for area residents addicted to opioids. On June 25, the North Simcoe Muskoka Regional Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Services opened, in response while providing people with substance issues quick access to professional help.

“The new regional RAAM Services will make it easier for individuals and their families to get the help they need when they are ready to make a change.” says Angela McCuaig, Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre (RVH) outpatient mental health and addiction services manager. “It is unfortunate that it has taken a nation-wide opioid crisis to bring awareness to the magnitude and impact of addiction-related problems. But this investment into the system will make a significant difference to individuals and families who are impacted by substance addictions.”

With funding and support from the North Simcoe Muskoka Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), the new service includes walk-in clinics at Barrie, Orillia and Midland. The Barrie clinic is located at RVH Addiction Services at 70 Wellington Street West; Orillia at the Common Roof, 169 Front St. S; and Midland, opening in July at the Chigamik Community Health Centre, 845 King St.

“This new clinic comes at a time when RVH is seeing a startling spike in opioid drug overdoses,” says Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO. “In fact, the number has increased five-fold over the past five years. Between April 2017 and March 2018, RVH treated 360 opioid overdoses compared to 67 in 2013-14.  This is not a clinic we want to open, it is a clinic we need to open.”

New data from the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit shows, between June 17-24, North Simcoe Muskoka hospitals saw 35 suspected unintentional drug overdoses. That’s about twice the number observed during the previous seven weeks.

“At these clinics, we will provide a non-judgmental safe place for people to begin their recovery journey and we will work with their primary care provider to support their recovery goals,” says McCuaig.

No referral to the clinics or appointment is required. During RAAM days people can walk in and have access to medication-assisted treatment and counselling right away. During the initial phase of the service, the Orillia clinic will be held from 1–3:30 p.m. Tuesdays; Midland, 9-11:30 a.m. Wednesdays and Barrie, 9–11:30 a.m. Thursdays.

The RAAM teams work closely with the Canadian Mental Health Association Simcoe County and Canadian Mental Health Association Muskoka Parry Sound branches to ensure individuals requiring ongoing counselling are offered these services.

For more information about RAAM Services call 1-833-797-3095.

Photo: Meredith Fryia, regional opioid treatment program coordinator and addiction services team lead at Canadian Mental Health Association Simcoe County, joined Angela McCuaig, outpatient mental health and addiction services manager at RVH; Ron, client  representative; Janice Skot, RVH president and CEO; Dr. Paul Hoogeveen; and Melody Boyd, Simcoe Muskoka Regional mental health and addiction program operations director; for the official ribbon-cutting ceremony for the North Simcoe Muskoka Regional Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Services.

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