New addiction clinic comes to Chatham

Chatham-Kent Health Alliance celebrating the official launch of it's Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine clinic with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on August 13, 2019. (Photo by Allanah Wills)

A new clinic has officially opened to Chatham-Kent residents suffering from drug addiction.

On Tuesday afternoon, Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) officials held a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic, located at the CKHA Chatham site. The clinic provides immediate access to addiction care without the need for appointments or referrals.

People who are ages 16 years or older who struggle with addiction are able to attend the clinic. It offers a variety of services including counselling, medications for opioid and alcohol use, naloxone kits and health assessments.

The Canadian Institute of Health Information reports that between 2016 and 2017, opioid poisoning hospitalization rates went up by eight per cent in Canada while emergency department visits due to opioid poisoning rose 73 per cent in the same time span in Ontario.  According to Lori Marshall, president and CEO of CKHA, those numbers are consistent with what is happening in Chatham-Kent. Marshall said one of the goals of the clinic is to help limit the number of emergency room visits for addiction-related issues.

“The individual will have access to services from councilling to physicians who have very specialized knowledge in this area and nurses who provide a level of support,” she explained. “What we’re really trying to do is come up with an alternative to people feeling that they need to reach out to the emergency department.”

Marshall said the hospital recognized that there were gaps that needed to be filled in the community when it comes to programming available for those dealing with substance abuse.

“A trend both across Canada as well as in Chatham-Kent is the need for greater addiction services,” said Marshall. “That was one of the things we identified in our strategic plan that we knew we needed to be pursuing more. It’s really quite gratifying to be able to open the RAAM Clinic. It’s one step towards providing more comprehensive care.”

The Chatham-Kent RAAM Clinic is one of 55 similar clinics that have opened up across the province.  Dr. Rizwan Rafiq, CHKA chief of psychiatry and program medical director of mental health and addictions program, said the clinics are intended to be low-barrier and provide patients with a flexible and custom care plan backed by extensive research.

“The model of addiction care we see in a RAAM clinic is proving to have a significant impact on addressing addiction-related conditions for patients by providing evidence-based treatment quickly and following patients closely along the care pathway,” he said. “Working closely with our community partners and providers will be key in the success of our RAAM clinic.”

After being discharged from the RAAM Clinic, staff members continue to support the patient by working with primary care providers for patient re-assessment and consultations.

“The team is responsible or making sure that once an individual has been here, they have an appropriate back door to the organization,” said Marshall. “It looks at referrals to other appropriate services and [gives] those warm handoffs… so that people feel that they’re well supported throughout their journey.”

The RAAM Clinic is located at 47 Emma St. in Chatham. Marshall said that the clinic not being directly attached to the hospital gives the patients a greater sense of privacy. The clinic is open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 2 p.m. until 4 p.m. Patients are asked to bring a health card and a list of current medications.

Since formally opening last month, Marshall said they’ve serviced around 16 patients and expect to see around 100 patients a year.