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Addictions a big problem in north - Dr. Alan McLean

By: Guest Columnist

 | Nov 29, 2012 - 10:54 AM |
Addicts come from all walks of life and often don’t resemble our imagined stereotype.

Instead, picture your friendly neighbour, the teen who’s working part-time, the pregnant woman shopping in the grocery store, a member of your service club. Indeed, you can even picture a member of your family – such as your teenager.

Just like your primary caregiver here in northeastern Ontario, as lead physician for the Superior Family Health Team and the Sault Family Health Organization, I see many of my patients for routine health concerns.

However, I also see those who are deeply troubled by addictions such as alcohol or drug dependence, and problem gambling. These are very real concerns for them, their families, their friends, their employers and for the health-care system.

National Addictions Awareness Week ran Nov. 19-25. It was a chance for residents of Northeastern Ontario to learn more about substance abuse and addictions.

The North Bay Parry Sound District Health Unit says almost a third of our northern youth binge drink at least once a month. About 20 per cent of us drink heavily. These are sobering statistics that should open our eyes.

I’ve recently been named the primary care lead for the North East Local Health Integration Network (LHIN), and part of my role is access to primary health care services, which is sometimes difficult for those with addiction issues.

I intend to work with other primary care providers to better integrate primary care across the system improving and streamlining their care.

Here are just some of the ways the North East LHIN is working to help fellow northerners with substance abuse/addiction challenges:

- It funds 28 providers to provide a variety of substance abuse/addictions interventions across northeastern Ontario. It also provides 72 subsidized housing sites and case management services for those with chronic addiction issues.

- A new opiate strategy is being implemented to support pregnant and parenting women in Timmins/Cochrane, Sault Ste. Marie, Sudbury, North Bay and Parry Sound.

- To further enhance care where and when people need it, the North East LHIN provides Ontario Telemedicine Network technology to a number of addictions treatment service providers spread all across the region.

- Additionally, 18 RNs now work with the Community Care Access Centre (CCAC) to provide mental health and addictions support to youth in schools across the region. Work with youth is especially important. It may seem staggering that 67 per cent of Ontario students who use prescription medication to get high say they get the medication from home.

Please help reduce that misuse by keeping track of your pills, locking them up, and returning unused medicine to your pharmacy for free, safe disposal.

In my role with the North East LHIN, I look forward to building partnerships with local primary care providers across the region and ensuring solutions are in place to help people facing substance abuse and addictions challenge.

I encourage you to learn more about the North East LHIN’s efforts on behalf of fellow northerners by visiting its website, www.nelhin.on.ca.

Find out more about National Addictions Awareness Week by visiting the sites of various Canadian agencies trying to bring change, such as the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, www.ccsa.ca.

Dr. Alan McLean is the primary care lead for the North East Local Health Integration Network. 

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