A "vital" methadone treatment clinic in Halifax may see money from the province to overcome its budget shortfall and help with long-term needs, says Nova Scotia Health Minister Leo Glavine.

Direction 180 on Gottingen Street, which also runs a mobile clinic, needs around $200,000, he told reporters Thursday. 

"If they're at the point where they can't fulfill their mandate to service X number of clients, then we need to look at it immediately," Glavine said. "They run a vital program."

Leo Glavine

Health Minister Leo Glavine says the Health Department will look at more funding for Direction 180. (CBC)

Clinic makes 'significant' difference

Right now, the province gives around $579,000 annually to the non-profit community group, executive director Cindy MacIsaac said Thursday evening. 

The group recently laid off two employees and closed its mobile clinic on weekends, she said. A related group, Mainline Needle Exchange, wrote a letter to the Health Department about the clinic's financial problems, she said. 

"It's been challenging," MacIsaac said. 

 She said normally it costs $6,000 per patient, but the clinic only has $1,200 to spend on each. Direction 180 has around 460 clients.

"Ideally, we would get an increase to our core funding so that we could improve upon the services," MacIsaac said. 

"The longer they're using, the more entrenched they are and the less likely they're going to be successful in an opiate assisted program." 

Cindy MacIsaac

Cindy MacIsaac, executive director of Direction 180, has clothing with slogans in support of naloxone, an antidote for opiate overdoses. (Steve Lawrence/CBC)

Glavine said his staff will look at short and long-term funding options.

"We want this program to be able to operate at the fullest extent," he said.

"Their work with the mobile methadone clinic has made a very significant difference in terms of reduction of crime and we know that it's one that needs to be supported."

Waitlist 'dramatically reduced'

Glavine also said the waitlist for provincial addictions treatment has been "dramatically reduced." He said people have been known to move to better access services and detox programs. He said his goal is to have a co-ordinated, provincewide intake approach. 

MacIsaac called Glavine's words "great news," including the idea of a provincial strategy for addictions treatment. 

"Aside from increasing our funding, there needs to be more effort into coordinating access to treatment for opiate addiction in the province and harm reduction services," she said.

In the last year, Direction 180 bought a new customized bus for its mobile methadone clinic. Donations covered $160,000 of the around $170,000 costs, MacIsaac said. That extra cost, plus rising operational costs, helped put the group into a deficit of $30,000, she said.

She said the mobile bus served 160 patients in Halifax, Dartmouth, Fairview and Spryfield, which has drastically cut wait times for methadone. But that service has been cancelled on weekends, due to the organization's financial constraints.

Glavine said he's spoken directly in the past with doctors about the program's impacts and needs.