Opioid treatment moving to rural P.E.I. through new funding

The federal government and P.E.I. signed a $1.1 million agreement Friday to improve addictions treatment on the Island.

P.E.I.-Ottawa sign joint agreement on addiction treatment

The plan includes improving access to opioid replacement therapy. (Kevin D. Liles/Associated Press)

The federal and provincial governments signed an agreement Friday committing just over a million dollars to improve addictions treatment on the Island.

The money will be used to offer opioid replacement therapy in more communities, especially rural Prince Edward Island.

Lorna Hutt says clients in western P.E.I. report that it is hard to get into Summerside to get the services that they need. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

"What we are finding is that there are gaps in our service and a lot of it lies within our outlying areas, our rural areas," said Lorna Hutt, manager of community mental health and addictions for Health PEI in the western end of the Island.

"This is going to make it easier for our staff to provide service to our clients in their own communities." 

There will also be more telehealth options, connecting patients in rural communities to more services.

"We're looking at some innovative ideas around telehealth and some mobile positions in order to reach Islanders in their communities," Hutt said.

"The discussion does include working out of community health centres, potentially out of our clients' homes as well."

Right now, opioid replacement therapy is offered in Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague and at a Queen Street location. (Natalia Goodwin/CBC)

Right now, opioid replacement therapy is offered in Charlottetown, Summerside, Montague and at a Queen Street location.

"We have our clients reporting to us that it is hard to get into Summerside to get the services that they need and so we really want to respond to those needs and provide them service in their area," Hutt said.

'Give them hope'

Chris Craig works with the P.E.I. Reach Foundation, providing aftercare for youth recovering from addiction.

He agrees improving access to addiction treatment is key.

"A big problem here on P.E.I. and a barrier is access to treatment, having it available in the community now is very exciting," Craig said.

"Although we are a small island, it's tough for our participants and clients to get to services. It's the difference between someone actually continuing on their treatment and stopping it."

A big problem here on PEI and a barrier is access to treatment.— Chris Craig

The new funding will also be used for training of peer counsellors — people with personal experience of addiction who will help with treatment.

"It's valuable that we have people who have walked it before," Craig said.

"Someone who is currently dealing with an addiction, they look up to someone like that because this is someone who has successfully done what they're trying to do so it gives them hope."

Chris Craig, of the P.E.I. Reach Foundation, says improving access to addiction treatment is key. (Randy McAndrew/CBC)

Craig says the funding is desperately needed to fight opioids.

"They're huge, they're destroying lives, families here on Prince Edward Island. I see the impact every day," Craig said.

"I see the pieces that these young Islanders are trying to pick back up and put together again. It's a long process and it's a hard road but they're doing it with the help of the opioid replacement therapy."

Reduce barriers

"This new agreement will help us reduce the barriers for accessing opioid replacement therapy," said P.E.I. Public Safety Minister Jordan Brown.

Jordan Brown represented the provincial government at the announcement. (Nancy Russell/CBC)

"We continue to work with partners to enhance surveillance of opioid use, create more options for harm reduction and response, and increase access to treatment options and supports for all Islanders."

The agreement is through the federal government's Emergency Treatment Fund.

More P.E.I. news


Nancy Russell has been a reporter with CBC since 1987, in Whitehorse, Winnipeg, Toronto and Charlottetown. When not on the job, she spends her time on the water or in the gym rowing, or walking her dog.


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?