By Peter Chow
CHAAT, Citizens Helping Addicts and Alcoholics Get Treatment, is an active, caring and compassionate citizens group trying to focus attention on drug addiction and generate support in dealing with the opioid crisis in our city.
A lot of really good people with noble intentions.
CHAAT is lobbying City Council, Sault Area Hospital, Ross Romano and Terry Sheehan for the proper infrastructure and resources to tackle the problem of drug addiction and overdose deaths.
So far the response has been empty platitudes at best, thinly-veiled hostile opposition at worst..
A big problem is that CHAAT hasn’t identified exactly what the city needs and what it should be pushing for.
Should CHAAT be pushing for a better expanded detox, which is done in the SAH ER? The ER has the expertise and drugs to handle overdoses and to detox addicts crashing.
SAH has a Withdrawal Management Unit, which is voluntary. During a resident’s stay in this facility they are detoxified from substances, stabilized and an individual discharge plan is negotiated. The thing about withdrawal from opiates is that in-patient treatment is not needed or even desirable. Opiate withdrawal is now managed by Medication Assisted Treatment with Methadone or Suboxone on an out-patient basis with out-patient followup.
The previous push for a stand-alone in-patient detox/withdrawal unit was misguided.
Should CHAAT be pushing for an in-patient addiction rehab/treatment center like Homewood in Guelph or Camillus Center in Elliott Lake? This is almost certainly not a realistic option for the Sault at this time, in terms of cost and lack of professional expertise to staff such a facility.
Should we expand the RAAM clinic (Rapid Access Addictions Medicine Clinic) run by the SAH on East St., which offers counselling and support services, but which so far, in its present state, is not a very effective player in the opioid crisis here.
The fastest way to Reduce Harm and Save Lives is to set up a Safe Injection Site (aka a Safe Drug Consumption Site), perhaps in conjunction with SAH’s RAAM Clinic.
A Safe Injection Site would be a much-needed major Harm Reduction measure, providing access to Naloxone as well as Medication Assisted Treatment (Suboxone and Methadone), counselling, clean needles, needle disposal, nursing care, testing for HIV and Hepatitis C and assistance in navigating the medical and judicial systems as well as the possible path to an addiction treatment center (out of town) if so desired.
It could also provide Anonymous Drug Testing to make sure a user’s drugs were free of Fentanyl. This alone could save lives right away.
It would provide a sanctuary where clients with Opioid Use Disorder would feel safe without being judged.
Thunder Bay has a Safe Injection Site.
Sudbury has been approved and is working on setting up their Safe Injection Site.
So far, unfortunately, the political and community will for a Safe Injection Site appears to be lacking in this city.