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Planned Detox Closure Endangers Staff, Clients

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Issue: 21 Section: Ottawa Geography: Ontario ottawa Topics: poverty

August 25, 2004

Planned Detox Closure Endangers Staff, Clients

Thirty years after its opening, the City of Ottawa is planning to shut down the Bruyere Street Detoxification Unit. Social workers and citizens are calling the planned closure a critical mistake. The Detox Unit, which is the only centre of its kind in Ottawa, provides services for those suffering from drug and alcohol addictions. If no sponsor steps forward, the Detox Unit could be closed in the fall.

Virginia Hamilton, Executive Director of the Detox Unit, said that the Sisters of Charity and Health Services Board of Directors made the decision to close the Detoxification Centre permanently in April. The Ministry also learned it would be responsible for locating a new sponsoring Schedule One Hospital.

"The Monfort hospital made some effort to provide some financial support but this fell through because their own budget was overextended. I am still hopeful that we will find ways and means to stay open," said Hamilton.

Mayor Bob Chiarelli and Counselor George Bedard have both professed interest in seeking support to keep the Detox Unit open.

No new sponsor has yet been found.

"I have found the task of seeking sponsorship to keep the centre open very tenuous," said Ms. Hamilton. In fact, she said the pending October 1st closure of the 30-year-old unit has created a stressful environment for those working in the facility and those requiring services.

21 (CUPE) unionized staff members keep the 26-bed unit running 24 hours a day, seven days a week. The Detox Unit provides services to people of diverse ages and backgrounds who suffer from addiction. In addition, Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) offers a spirited force to the Detox Unit where volunteers from local groups gather for meetings six days and evenings per week.

The Detox Unit has space for 20 men and six women. For the last 20 years, the space has been divided by gender, as most women are not comfortable in a shared or co-ed environment.

Tracy Bellamy has started an online petition, which she plans to present to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long Term Care. The petition is an appeal to keep the Detox Unit open. "I am asking that if you agree with the content of the petition that you sign it, send it to people on your contact list. This is a very worthwhile cause," said Bellamy.

"It is literally a matter of life and death for many people."

The petition can be found at www.petitiononline.com/2411525/petition.html

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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