Ad­dic­tions cen­tre a wel­come ad­di­tion

The Compass - - OPINION -

There was big news last week on the health care front, es­pe­cially if you or a fam­ily mem­ber suf­fers from a se­vere, com­plex ad­dic­tion and would like to re­ceive ex­pert, com­pre­hen­sive treat­ment with­out hav­ing to leave the prov­ince.

The long-awaited adult res­i­den­tial ad­dic­tions treat­ment cen­tre pro­posed for Har­bour Grace took a ma­jor step to­ward re­al­ity when East­ern Health an­nounced it has awarded a $1.7 mil­lion con­tract to Home­wood Health Cen­tre Inc. of Guelph, On­tario, for the plan­ning and de­vel­op­ment of the cen­tre.

Once in op­er­a­tion, those ad­dicted to al­co­hol and other drugs will be able to avail of a longer-term res­i­den­tial treat­ment pro­gram, right here in our own prov­ince. Cur­rently, those in need of such treat­ment can likely find them­selves on a plane to the Home­wood Health Cen­tre in Guelph, which is a fully-ac­cred­ited na­tional leader and cen­tre of ex­cel­lence for ad­dic­tions and men­tal health treat­ment.

Ad­vo­cates say the new cen­tre will greatly re­duce wait times for treat­ment, which is yet an­other rea­son to ap­plaud this decision, since time is of­ten the en­emy of those with an ad­dic­tion.

Hav­ing to travel such a great dis­tance, away from fam­ily and friends, has of­ten stood in the way of those in need of help, and the con­se­quences of this short­com­ing has in some cases been deadly.

Dur­ing a public con­sul­ta­tion on the is­sue in Har­bour Grace late last sum­mer, sup­port for the cen­tre was over­hwelm­ing.

In one case, a fam­ily sug­gested that the late Wil­liam J. Shep­pard Jr. would still be alive to­day if there was such a cen­tre in this prov­ince. Shep­pard be­came de­pen­dent on codeine and other highly ad­dic­tive drugs pre­scribed for back pain as a re­sult of an ac­ci­dent.

Un­able to get the help he needed, his sis­ter stated, he com­mit­ted sui­cide on Aug. 26, 2010. He was 52.

Health of­fi­cials have long rec­og­nized the need for such a fa­cil­ity in this prov­ince, and there’s fi­nally some con­crete move­ment in that di­rec­tion. In its most re­cent bud­get, the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment an­nounced it is spend­ing a to­tal of $15.5 mil­lion on the de­vel­op­ment of the adult ad­dic­tions treat­ment cen­tre in Har­bour Grace, as well as youth ad­dic­tions treat­ment cen­tres in Par­adise and Grand Falls-wind­sor.

And this comes at a time of gov­ern­ment belt-tight­en­ing, so it’s ob­vi­ous our lead­ers are not con­tent to con­tinue forc­ing those seek­ing treat­ment out of the prov­ince for help.

The peo­ple of Har­bour Grace have to be com­mended for viewing this un­der­tak­ing with such an open mind. Sure, some have ques­tioned the wis­dom of es­tab­lish­ing an ad­dic­tions cen­tre at the SPLASH Cen­tre on Lady Lake Road, amid a res­i­den­tial neigh­bour­hood, but there’s ev­ery in­di­ca­tion that the right steps will be taken to en­sure ev­ery rea­son­able pre­cau­tion is taken. And like Har­bour Grace Mayor Don Coombs once said, it has to go some­where.

We should keep in mind that those en­ter­ing the cen­tre will be do­ing so vol­un­tar­ily, un­der the rec­om­men­da­tion of a physi­cian and ad­dic­tions coun­sel­lor. In other words, they are des­per­ate for help and to re­ceive the tools nec­es­sary to break their ad­dic­tions.

Car­bon­ear-har­bour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy served no­tice that the cen­tre may go else­where if public sup­port was in doubt, stat­ing last year it was a “ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tion” in the process of se­lect­ing a site.

And as an elected politi­cian, Kennedy has to be pleased about the eco­nomic spinoffs of es­tab­lish­ing such a cen­tre in his dis­trict, since it will cre­ate be­tween 20 to 30 news jobs in a town that has seen its eco­nomic base shrink over the years.

We should also keep in mind this cen­tre will not open its doors overnight. This is no easy un­der­tak­ing, and it has to be done right.

As such, Home­wood Health Cen­tre will bring the ex­per­tise of a full team of health care providers who spe­cial­ize in ad­dic­tions treat­ment to the fa­cil­ity, and will work with East­ern Health over the next two-and-a-half years to de­velop a func­tional pro­gram.

We wish all those in­volved in this process the very best of luck. There are a lot of peo­ple count­ing on your best ef­forts.

— Terry Roberts

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