One of 10 beds in the new Withdrawal Management Unit at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance. (Photo by Kirk Dickinson/CKXS News)

Chatham-Kent residents struggling with addiction will soon have improved access to care within their own community.

The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) has announced that its new 10-bed residential withdrawal management unit will begin accepting patients on August 10 at the Chatham hospital site. The hospital and its community partners celebrated the opening of the expanded care clinic on Friday with a ribbon cutting.

The withdrawal management facility will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week at the former outpatient mental health services building. Along with the 10 beds, the facility also features two “quiet rooms,” a therapy space, and a dining room upgrade.

The services offered at the clinic provide a supportive environment to enable safe withdrawal from substances. The care providers will also be able to initiate follow-up addiction treatment.

“If you have ever known somebody who is reaching out for care for either a mental health issue or an addiction issue, it’s a scary time in their life. So we want to make it as comfortable as possible,” said Alan Stevenson, vice president of Mental Health and Addictions. “People who struggle with addictions often get stigmatized and to feel like you belong is a really important part of recovery.”

The CKHA Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic is also being moved next to the 10-bed clinic to offer a co-location of both services to make access easier for patients and their families.

“That’s why we co-located them, to ensure that synergy between the two services,” said Stevenson.

CKHA has been operating three interim withdrawal management beds since mid-March, while the new facility was under construction. Based on demand for the services, Stevenson said he expects the new facility to be at 100 per cent capacity within six months.

In the past, beds for withdrawal management treatment have only been available in neighbouring communities such as London, Windsor or Sarnia. Stevenson said the new facility will fill a significant void within the community.

“A lot of people refuse to go out of the community because they don’t want to lose contact with their family, they don’t have transportation, they don’t know [the other] community,” he said. “Having local services is absolutely going to improve uptake.”

The total cost of renovations for the withdrawal management unit was listed at $1.2 million, with a $500,000 contribution from the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, $150,000 from the Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton-Kent chapter, and an additional $100,000 in start-up costs from the Ministry of Health. Roughly $450,000 was also committed from donors across the municipality to help cover the remaining costs.