Nfld. & Labrador

Methadone treatment a challenge outside the Avalon: Andrew Parsons

There's a lack of doctors willing to provide methadone treatment to patients in Newfoundland and Labrador, which means more and more people are stuck on a waiting list.

Steve Kent says work being done on how to expand treatment programs across province

There are more than 1,000 people currently receiving methadone treatment in Newfoundland and Labrador, but public consultations for an an all-party committee on mental health and addiction show the service isn't easily accessed across the province. (CBC)

Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons says there are too many people in Newfoundland and Labrador not getting the treatment they need if they aren't on the Avalon Peninsula.

An all-party committee on mental health and addictions has been holding public meetings and consultations across the province.

Parsons, who is also the Liberal's health critic, said it's become increasingly clear there are people not getting what they need.
Liberal MHA Andrew Parsons says there's a problem getting people access to methadone treatment if the patient is located outside the Avalon Peninsula. (CBC)

While more than 1,000 people in this province receive methadone treatment, which is used to wean people off their addiction to prescription and illegal drugs, many others aren't getting it.

"The number of people that are requiring treatment sort of blew my mind. I wasn't prepared for that," said Parsons.

"It's amazing how many people who are actually on the wait list for treatment and how many people are probably not even on that list and should be. We're talking hundreds and hundreds more."

According to Parsons, there were just 300 or so people receiving methadone treatment in the province just eight years ago.

"We've had in just eight years a 250 per cent increase in the number of people seeking methadone treatment, and that's a pretty scary statistic."

He added there's a "lack of access" for patients needing these treatments that aren't located essentially on the Avalon Peninsula.

Not enough doctors willing

Health Minister Steve Kent, who is also on the all-party committee, access to treatment is a big problem and that's something he said the committee heard loud and clear during consultations across the province.

"There are physicians throughout the island that are delivering methadone treatment, but unfortunately none in the Corner Brook area on the west coast, which is a real concern for us," said Kent.
Health Minister Steve Kent says there needs to be more access for patients requiring methadone treatment, particularly on the province's west coast, and government is looking into how to improve delivery of those services. (CBC)

"We need more physicians on the west coast and frankly we need more physicians throughout the province to provide methadone treatment."

However, Kent said that's a challenge because there's a lot of physicians willing to provide methadone treatment to patients.

One doctor in Grand Falls-Windsor makes the trip to Corner Brook to ensure patients there are getting their prescription, he said, but that's not enough.

"A year ago people in the western region had to travel to St. John's to access the service. We've made changes over the past year and as a result there are people in Corner Brook receiving methadone treatment," said Kent.

"We're even bringing in a physicians part time from the central region to provide methadone treatment, but that's not enough."

Kent said government is looking at the possibility of having other healthcare providers, such as nurses, prescribe and dispense methadone to improve access.

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