Regional healthcare workers hope addictions funding flows to Windsor programs

Windsor-Essex health care workers welcome a new funding initiative to expand addiction services and treatments in the province.

The province commits $33M investment toward expanding addiction services

"It's absolutely catastrophic out there right now," says Robert Sandwith, Co-founder of Hand in Hand Support. (Katerina Georgieva/CBC Windsor)

Windsor-Essex front line healthcare workers, focused on the opioid crisis are happy with an announcement made by the provincial government Wednesday morning. 

The province has committed to invest $32.7 million into annual funding for targeted addictions services and support, which includes treatment for opioid addictions. 

The funding is part of the government's commitment to invest $3.8 billion over 10 years for it's Roadmap to Wellness, a program aimed at improving mental health and addiction services in the province. 

"It's absolutely catastrophic out there right now," said Robert Sandwith, co-founder of Hand in Hand Support. 

As a frontline worker, Sandwith offers transitional support to those struggling with addiction. He said many people who seek help are in desperate need for support. 

"We're not getting phone calls just from individuals. We've always been getting them from the mothers, but we're getting calls from the sisters, the brothers, the grandparents, cousins, friends," said Sandwith.

"We're averaging sometimes two to three phone calls just for one individual and complete despair of what to do." 

A close up picture of fentanyl tablet split in half with powder showing.
A file photo of close up of fentanyl tablet split in half with powder showing. (CBC)

Overdoses have risen significantly over the last year in Windsor-Essex. 

According to Adrienne Spafford, CEO of mental health and addictions Ontario,the province lost 2,426 people to overdose-related deaths.

In Windsor-Essex, there were 348 overdoses in 2020, compared to 249 in 2019. Last year 64 lives were lost to opioid overdoses, compared with 48 the previous year.

'Poor cousin to mental health'

Patrick Kolowicz, the director for mental health and addictions at Hotel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) welcomes the dedicated funding for addiction services. 

"We know that within addiction, we need a continuum of service options for people, and so that means some investments in many different areas," said Kolowicz. "So we're happy to hear this news."

Kolowicz said addiction services have been referred to as the 'poor cousins to mental health' in the past. 

"It's alluding to the fact that it doesn't receive that much attention or funding as mental health," said Kolowicz.

Through the Roadmap to Wellness initiative, funding has been sent to the region already. 

According to Kolowicz, Hotel-Dieu has established an EMS response program for those who overdose on the street, investments in the hospital's withdrawal services  as well as a Most Van. 

"So that's a van that is mobile and tries to assist people where they're at in terms of providing the support to them on the streets," said Kolowicz. 

The province aims to put the money toward supports for prevention, recovery, transitions and treatments. Hand in Hand Support - a group supported by donations - hopes to see some of the money flow to them. 



With files by Katerina Georgieva