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Battle for rehab beds rages on

Posted: March 1, 2020

(February 29, 2020)

By: Jennifer Hamilton-Mccharles, North Bay Nugget

Mary Morin says she would be dead if it wasn’t for the services she received 10 years ago at the addiction treatment centre on King Street in North Bay.

Morin, however, is afraid someday she will find the body of her son, who is a drug addict.

“I’ve been clean for 10 years – since Nov. 19, 2010,” she said Friday, holding back tears.

“I put myself into addictions counselling in Sturgeon Falls and they got me into the addiction rehabilitation centre on King Street in the 28-day program,” she said. “It helped me immensely with a lot of my issues, including child abuse.”

Morin spoke at Friday’s rally in front of Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli’s constituency office on Main Street.

The event attracted about 25 people, including hospital staff, union members and several residents who shared their stories of struggle and survival.

The Ontario Council of Hospital Unions and Canadian Union of Public Employees organized the rally in an attempt to save the North Bay Regional Health Centre’s 29 residential addiction treatment beds, as well as two crisis beds also slated for closure.

Those beds are being replaced with eight withdrawal management beds, two transitional beds and six crisis beds.

OCHU and CUPE stated previously that cutting the program would mean the elimination of more than half of the city’s residential addiction treatment beds.

Since May 20, 2019, there have been 193 overdoses reported to the North Bay Parry Sound Health Unit through the online reporting form, with eight resulting in death.

So far in February, there have been 21 overdoses, the majority involving purple heroin and alcohol.

Morin said she can’t thank the North Bay Regional Health Centre enough, or the counsellors who helped her on her journey.

While she’s celebrating her success, Morin said she’s worried about those who will lose out if the hospital continues with its plan to shut down the residential addiction treatment beds, slated for closure this summer.

“I, myself, have a son who is addicted to heroin and meth right now and he’s walking the streets of North Bay,” she said.

“He’s asked for help, but he’s been told there’s no room at this time. If they close the beds in North Bay, where is he going to go?” “I have many sleepless nights wondering where he is and what he is doing. Is he OK?” The media questioned Fedeli about the bed closures during a Northern Ontario Heritage Fund announcement earlier Friday.

“You know it’s interesting that we have increased our spending and our investments in the North Bay Regional Health Centre by $4.5 million last year. We have just recently added $750,000 to the health facility this year,” he said.

“We continue to work with all of our partners. We’re investing $3.9 billion into mental health and addictions. I just can’t understand why the union leaders don’t want to be part of the solution with the mental health and addiction community.”

Fedeli said “we’ve seen 29 of them (health-care agencies) all come together and make a plan that is a very, very positive, proactive plan for mental health and addiction.

“And then we have this outlier group that wants to challenge everything that’s done and so I’m disappointed. But I know that all of the health-care professionals who have come together are doing the right thing and we will continue down that path. I’m very pleased to see all of them, all of the health-care professionals, on the same page,” he said.

“The outlier union leaders who want to continue a fight, I don’t quite understand what it’s about. We’re progressing with mental health care and addictions in the city of North Bay. We’re one of the leading communities. We’ve seen continued investments. So I am disappointed that they continue to fan the flames when we are doing huge work and making huge investments in mental health care and addictions.”

Natalie Mehra, executive director OCHU, said the union is asking Fedeli to intervene to stop the closure of the residential addiction treatment beds.

“We’re concerned because there is a wait list for that program and a wait list for the only other program in the community. It would mean people would have to travel and the closest programs in Sudbury and Parry Sound also have huge wait lists,” she said.

“The hospital recently cancelled the layoffs they previously announced so we’re halfway there.”

The hospital notified CUPE and staff the layoff notices are no longer in place after it was named the preferred operator of community withdrawal management services (WMS) and safe beds.

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