The emergency room at Sudbury's hospital is always busy, but a study by the Northeast Local Health Integration Network has found there are a small number of people making a large number of visits.

The LHIN said the city needs to find a better place for these people who don’t appear to be getting the help they need.

The study showed 10 people in particular made almost 500 visits to the ER over a period of six months, Northeast LHIN CEO Louise Paquette said. The cost per visit to emergency starts at $200, she noted.

Most of these people have chronic mental health and alcohol problems, Paquette said, and the Sudbury hospital emergency room is often their first stop in getting help, as it’s open around the clock.

“Clearly, people who are going to the emergency room feel that they are in crisis and that they need help,” Paquette said.

“And you have to think about what the cost [is] to us as a society, and as Sudburians, to having people saying they need help and we're really struggling with how to help them.”

These people aren't getting the help they need at the ER, she said. That's why the LHIN is looking at the idea of a managed alcohol program — a program where alcohol is meted out in small doses to chronic users.

The LHIN is currently collecting feedback on the idea from community partners.

The executive director of the John Howard Society in Sudbury said no one has asked for his feedback yet, but he's all for the idea. John Rimore said a gradual approach that may help people who haven't succeeded in rehab, as suddenly stopping drinking doesn’t work for everyone.

“Human life is not like that,” he said. “Many people need ways and means and time to slowly and, over time, stop the behaviours that are causing their lives to go into disrepair.”

As for a recommendation on the program, Paquette said the LHIN will have one by late spring.