New Bells Corners addiction treatment centre reports high demand

The Recovery Ottawa West addiction treatment centre in Bells Corners has almost 100 registered patients only six weeks after opening, exceeding their expectations.

Recovery Ottawa West has almost 100 registered patients after 6 weeks of operation

Recovery Ottawa West officially opened in mid-February and has been offering opioid replacement therapy for people trying to fight addiction. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

The Recovery Ottawa West addiction treatment centre in Bells Corners has almost 100 registered patients only six weeks after opening, exceeding their expectations.

Dr. Elizabeth Shouldice said demand is nearly twice what they thought it would be after they reviewed Ottawa Public Health data prior to opening.

"Our growth has been more than we expected. That's welcome for us; we're happy to see this many patients want to come through our doors. That speaks to the need in the community," she said.

Still facing stigma

Shouldice and three other physicians from Queensway Carleton Hospital spend at least one day a week at the clinic, which also has an addictions nurse and an addictions counsellor on staff.

Counsellor Jimmie Massey is one of the first people new patients meet when they arrive at the clinic, and takes satisfaction from the work the clinic does for the community.

"The parents are grateful we're here. They feel that we're very useful," he said.

Fighting the stigma

4 years ago
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Addictions counsellor Jimmie Massey got into the field because of what he saw growing up in Detroit.

A woman from the community confronted him about the clinic but when he explained they were offering treatment to get people off drugs with opioid substitution therapy, she eventually came on side, he said.

"That's why we're having the open house, to bring awareness and enlightenment ... to let them know we're not just a methadone clinic where we sit here and push drugs," he said.

'No face or name' for crisis

Dr. John Macdonald, another physician at the clinic, said they've seen patients from across the west end, where no facility like theirs existed before.

"There's no face or name that you can put to this crisis. It truly is a crisis. And it's something that involves everyone from all walks of life," he said.

"We're getting teenagers brought in by their parents, we're getting retired seniors and then all age groups in between."

The clinic is also seeing patients whose addictions began with pain prescriptions that spiralled out of control, along with some recreational users, he said.

Next steps

Shouldice said they are tracking patients they see to decide whether Recovery Ottawa West should expand, and that they hope to work with Ottawa Public Health.

Dr. Bhaskar Gopalan, another hospital emergency physician at the clinic, said his experience has shown him the city needs another detox centre.

"Any time I've called from the emergency department to send a patient for acute withdrawal and detox management, there's no bed or rooms available. Usually, we're sending these patients home having to detox and manage themselves," he said.

Dr. John Macdonald, a physician at Recovery Ottawa West, said resources to fight opioid addiction need to be spread throughout the city's suburbs. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Macdonald said that given the nature of the opioid addiction crisis, the kind of treatment currently seen in the downtown core needs to be more widely available.

"All of it. Everything that you're seeing downtown needs to be spread out into the suburbs of the city. So other forms of safe areas for patients to use, other social supports, housing, psychiatric services," he said.