A local office of Ontario Addiction Treatment Centres (OATC) opened in Fort Frances yesterday—several years after the need for one in the area was first identified.
OATC focuses on therapy specifically for those addicted to opiates, such as heroin, morphine, Percocet/Percodan, codeine, and opium.
Since its inception in 1995, OATC was treated well over 10,000 clients and “has helped many people return to a life full of dignity, hope, and self-respect.”
“It’s a service that there is a demand for in the community,” noted local pharmacist Kim Metke, owner of both Pharmasave and the Fort Frances Clinic Dispensary.
“It’s unfortunate that we haven’t been able to meet it up until now, and it’s nice that it’s finally here,” he added.
Metke, who is involved in a methadone clinic in Dryden, had been trying to get a treatment centre going here for more than a year.
“I attempted to find location for them last year and then they didn’t seem to be ready to go on it,” he remarked, explaining the hold-up.
“When they did look at the location, they didn’t think it was as satisfactory as another one might be. So they looked around and came up with the present location [the former K of C Hall at 404 Scott St.]”
“If it had been up to me, it would have been in a lot sooner,” Metke said. “But the doctors had to get organized to put it in.”
Jeff Tilbury, with Riverside Community Counselling Services, also is happy to finally have a treatment centre here.
“I definitely think it’s a step in the right direction for people with opiate problems,” he said. “It’s not the end all, be all, but it’s definitely a very needed part of the treatment continuum for people struggling with opiate addictions.
“It’s definitely something we needed to have happen here,” he stressed.
Tilbury noted district residents had been accessing the service in towns such as Dryden and Kenora.
“It’s very difficult for people to travel as many times as they are required to a month or week, so I think this will cut down on travel expenses,” he indicated.
He also believes more people will access the local service now who perhaps weren’t able to get themselves to Kenora or Dryden.
“So I think a lot more people that have been struggling will come forward,” Tilbury said. “There is that untouched population that might surface.”
“I know there are a large number of people that have been going up to Dryden who are quite anxious for this to be here because obviously going to Dryden is not very convenient,” echoed Metke.
The local OATC is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m.-2:50 p.m., as well as Saturdays and Sundays from 9-11:50 a.m.
Tilbury indicated that should the local OATC work similarly to ones in other communities, people can get referrals from their doctor, through Riverside Community Counselling Services, or simply walk in the door of the clinic itself.
Centre staff here referred all inquires to the OATC head office in Richmond Hill, Ont. But when contacted by the Times, a person there said they were “not interested in providing your newspaper with any information at this time.”
According to the OATC’s website (www.oatc.ca), the local centre will offer services including the Methadone Maintenance Program, which is based on an Out-patient Harm Reduction Model.
It consists of an initial intake interview, a signed treatment contract and treatment plan, addiction counselling, regular medical follow-up, a daily methadone dose, and post-methadone treatment.
The website noted methadone is a long-acting opioid medication, and is an effective and legal substitute for heroin or other narcotics.
It will significantly decreases drug cravings and helps eliminate drug use, it said.
“It helps to stabilize the lives of people who are dependent on opiates and reduce the harm related to drug use,” the website reads.
The centre also utilizes a multi-disciplinary treatment team approach, including physicians, nurses, addiction counsellors, pharmacists, and other allied health professionals.