New opioid addiction clinics in North Bay, Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie based on Sudbury success

Three new addiction clinics are set to open in North Bay, Timmins and Sault Ste. Marie next month. The Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinics are based on the success of the seven pilot project sites, which includes Sudbury.

Three sites to provide faster, tailored treatment for substance use

The Rapid Access Addiction Medicine Clinic in Sudbury was one of seven pilot project in Ontario. The sites were so success at helping drug users that the province announced an expansion to create more clinics across the province. (Radio-Canada)

Three new specialized clinics are set to open next month in northeastern Ontario to help treat drug addicts.

The sites are based on the success of Sudbury's pilot Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic, which is one of seven across the province.

The clinics provide faster and more individualized treatment for opioid or alcohol dependence.

Earlier this year, the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN) announced funding to create further clinics across the region and expand the Sudbury site.

In April, RAAM clinics will open in Timmins, Sault Ste. Marie and North Bay.

"There are an awful lot of people out there who really do need this kind of help, other types of services have just not worked for them," says Stephanie Paquette, the Mental Health and Addiction Lead for the North East LHIN.

She explains that rapid access addiction medicine provides faster treatment to these patients than if they visited their primary care provider or a hospital emergency room.

Paquette says the treatment is also tailored to each individual patient, based on what they discuss with the team at the clinic.

Sudbury offers expertise

Because Sudbury was one of the original sites, local experts helped the LHIN set up the three new clinics in the northeast.

Paola Folina, with Addiction Services at Health Sciences North, says it was amazing to work on planning these needed projects, even if the timeline was hectic.

"The fact that we've been able to pull together in three months all of this hard work really shows how engaged the communities have been, and the need for the services within those communities," she says.
Addictions specialist Dr Mike Franklyn calls 80,000 more naloxone kits a year for the province 'a start' but says more people should be carrying them. (Angela Gemmill / CBC)

Dr. Mike Franklyn is an addictions physician in Sudbury. He also provided advice on setting up the new clinics.

For the health care professionals in Sault Ste. Marie, Timmins and North Bay, who work with substance-use patients, Franklyn says these treatment sites can't come soon enough.

"They're desperate for an initiative like this because their clients were suffering with what are called concurrent disorders, which means other mental health issues mixed with addiction; [They] really have no other place to go for the medical part of this treatment."

Franklyn says those with substance-use issues, like opioid addiction, a hospital emergency room is not the right place for them to try to get treatment.

Game changer

Instead, he says, these individuals can walk into a RAAM clinic off the street, and the team can help create a treatment plan specific to their needs.

"Rapid means that the expectation is they should be seen in three days or less, so there's virtually no wait," he says, adding that addicts who need access to care require it immediately because they've made the decision to seek help.

He calls the addition of this RAAM clinic to Sudbury's health care system "a complete game changer."

"[Substance users] now have an opportunity, a unique opportunity, to come and meet with an experienced addiction medicine physician, have a discussion and plan on what it is they want to do," Franklyn says.

The RAAM clinics will each be working with multiple social agencies, counselling centres, and the Canadian Mental Health Association to help create individualized treatment plans.

Paquette says the new RAAM clinics in Sault Ste. Marie and Timmins are set to open April 1, while the North Bay site should be operation later in the month.

She says all four clinics will become 'hubs' that will then provide guidance to various spoke sites in smaller neighbouring communities.

The Sudbury clinic will expand its hours from being open three days a week to five days.

According to Folino, the Sudbury site will also include a patient navigator, to help individuals make connections with other health care services and program. That person has not yet been hired.

About the Author

Angela Gemmill

Journalist

Angela Gemmill is a CBC journalist who has covered news in Sudbury, Ont., for 13 years. Connect with her on Twitter @AngelaGemmill. Send story ideas to angela.gemmill@cbc.ca