Addictions clinic trying to keep up with demand

File photo courtesy of © Can Stock Photo / BackyardProduct

The Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic at the Chatham-Kent Health Alliance (CKHA) has extended its hours because of a “significant increase” in substance use during the pandemic.

In March and April, the clinic saw 21 and 22 patients a month respectively. In May and June, those numbers increased to 31 and 35, according to CKHA Vice President of Mental Health and Addictions Alan Stevenson. CKHA President and CEO Lori Marshall said she expected to see around 100 patients a year when the clinic opened in July 2019.

Stevenson said it’s not surprising the numbers continue to grow because people are coping with the stress of COVID-19 and have had more free time. Stevenson said it’s difficult to say if the hours will be expanded further because government funding hasn’t grown. But he promises he’ll be asking for more resources if demand grows beyond the clinic’s capacity to handle it. Stevenson admits there are gaps in the system and said the three extra hours a week will continue because more community-based capacity is needed.

“Addictions are complex,” he added.

The addictions clinic continues to operate out of its temporary location at 240 Grand Avenue West, Suite 204 in Chatham. The clinic will now be open from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Drug and alcohol users do not need an appointment and can walk-in to get help.

One of the goals of the clinic is to help limit the number of emergency room visits for addiction-related issues. Chatham-Kent has one of the highest rates in Ontario for emergency department visits due to suspected opioid overdoses.