New addiction recovery centre in Dartmouth aims to offer barrier-free support

·2 min read
Dr. David Martell is the physician lead for the mental health and addictions program with Nova Scotia Health. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC - image credit)
Dr. David Martell is the physician lead for the mental health and addictions program with Nova Scotia Health. (Brittany Wentzell/CBC - image credit)

A new addiction recovery centre that opened Tuesday in Dartmouth, N.S., isn't a typical clinic, but rather an "access point" for people seeking help, says the doctor leading Nova Scotia's addictions and mental health program.

It's all in an effort to ensure the services and programs at the centre are as welcoming and barrier-free as possible, said Dr. David Martell.

"Often people have had the experience where they try to access a lot of different things in health care and what they're met with is leaving a voicemail message or being called back or waiting for a referral to be placed to a service," he told CBC Radio's Information Morning.

The centre, located at 45 Alderney Drive, is the first of four sites to open in Nova Scotia.

They're aimed at helping people with substance use and gambling addictions, with no need for a referral. The centres are staffed by a nurse practitioner, registered nurses, social workers and peer-support workers.

Listen to Dr. David Martell's full interview with Information Morning:

"I think those social and psychological supports are key," Martell said. "Most people who struggle with substance use problems also very much struggle with other types of mental health problems and very often other types of physical health problems."

'Access point' for people experiencing homelessness

The space is located on a bus route in downtown Dartmouth, not far from the Halifax Regional Municipality's new modular units for dozens of people who were previously staying at the Gerald B. Gray Memorial Arena.

"Homelessness is one of the things that's very wrapped into substance use issues and severe mental health problems, so to have a support clinic, an access point, close to where people are struggling, I think is crucial," Martell said.

He said reliable access to transportation can be a major challenge for people experiencing homelessness, and it's a problem that has been made worse during the pandemic.

"People are more isolated and it doesn't take a lot for vulnerable people to not be able to connect to services," he said.

Services offered at the Dartmouth centre include in-person assessments, group programming and recovery and harm reduction supports. The centre will initially be open weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time.

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