Nova Scotia

Pictou County residents worry they could permanently lose detox unit

It's been four months since the detox unit in Pictou, N.S., closed due to COVID-19. Community advocates worry they could permanently lose the much-needed service after a potential reopen date came and went.

The unit was closed in April due to COVID-19 and still hasn't reopened

The detox unit in Pictou, N.S., was closed in April when COVID-19 arrived in Nova Scotia. (Getty Images)

It's been four months since the detox unit in Pictou, N.S., closed due to COVID-19 and community advocates worry they could permanently lose the much-needed service after a potential reopen date came and went.

Without the unit, people in need of mental health and addiction support in the Pictou area must travel an hour and a half to the hospital in Springhill, N.S., where they can wait up to three weeks to get in, said Lisa Deyoung, the manager of Viola's Place Society.

The homeless shelter in New Glasgow, which often refers people to the Pictou detox unit, is now trying its best to support those in need, she said.

"People can [have] seizures, people can have heart attacks when they're going through withdrawals, so it can be scary," Deyoung told CBC's Information Morning on Wednesday.

"It takes a lot of courage for someone to even admit that they're ready to go access detox so then knowing there's a three-week wait, knowing they have to leave their family, it causes a lot more stress."

Deyoung adds that the shelter is only seeing a fraction of the people in Pictou County who are in need of help.

With the detox unit closed, people are relying on other services, like Voila's Place Society in New Glasgow, N.S. (David Laughlin/CBC)

The Nova Scotia Health Authority closed the detox unit in April when the pandemic arrived in Nova Scotia, but Deyoung said she didn't learn about the closure until she called trying to refer someone there.

Karla MacFarlane, MLA for Pictou West, said employees at the unit were told it could reopen in mid-June.

She said that when the regional hospital in Pictou County lost its mental health and addictions floor in 2015, it was also supposed to be temporary at first.

She wants the health authority to be up front with people about when, if ever, the unit is reopening.

"I think the residents in this area are just looking for transparency and truth … just rip the Band-Aid off," she said.

MacFarlane said she's heard from several people concerned about where to go to get help, especially amid the pandemic.

"Certainly mental health and addictions has increased, and certainly in my office we've received more calls during these, you know, adverse and challenging times," she said.

The Nova Scotia Health Authority said it's gradually working to restart services across the province that were impacted at the start of the pandemic, but there's no date set for when the detox unit in Pictou could reopen.

Karla MacFarlane, MLA for Pictou West, says the Nova Scotia Health Authority should be up front with the community about when, if ever, the detox centre will reopen. (Karla MacFarlane/Facebook)

"Due to COVID-19, the withdrawal management program located in Pictou has been consolidated with the unit at All Saints Hospital in Springhill since April. All Saints Hospital was chosen as the site to be opened in [the] Northern Zone during the pandemic," spokesperson Carla Adams said in an email.

Adams said access to withdrawal management is available for residents living in the area by calling mental health and addictions intake at 1-855-922-1122.

Nova Scotians who are looking for help can also call the provincial mental health and addictions crisis line, which is available 24 hours, 7 days a week at 1-888-429-8167.

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With files from CBC's Information Morning

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