At first it sounded like such a great idea: a walk-in clinic for people struggling with addictions.
Finally, an easily accessible place for people with substance abuse, who on the days when they finally have the courage to seek help, who can walk to a clinic that day without an appointment and who can talk to a professional about a recovery plan.
In a world where timing is everything, where people struggling with addictions might be willing to help one day, but next time change their minds, a walk-in clinic is available to people when they need it, a game is exchanger.
But then we came behind the opening hours: only six hours a week, 1-3 hours Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays. That is it.
Minister Cameron Friesen of Health and the Regional Health Authority of Winnipeg announced last week the opening of the new Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine (RAAM) clinic, located at 817 Bannatyne Avenue. It is a walk-in clinic. You do not need an appointment. If you need help with substance abuse, you simply show up. They will help you. That first step is always difficult. But the easier it is to find help, the greater the chance that people will get it.
It's a great idea and it's modeled on similar clinics in Ontario. It is badly needed. But the fact that it is only open six hours a week is hugely disappointing.
The WRHA opens a second RAAM clinic on September 13 at 146 Magnus Avenue. But it will also only be open limited hours: Monday 1-3 hours and Thursday 9:30 hours until 11:30 hours. So between the two clinics they are only open two hours a day during office hours, or 10 hours a week. It makes banks look like 7-Elevens.
The problem with getting help for people with addictions is that it is all about timing. People who are struggling with substance abuse may be willing to get help on a day or an afternoon, but not the next day or the following week. It is a struggle. And if the walk-in clinic is closed on the day that someone finds the courage to get help, that courage may be gone the next day.
Getting help with addictions is a tough job. There are waiting lists and delays. People often do not know where they can get help. Not many have the means to control themselves in private facilities.
That is why a walk-in clinic for substance abuse is so revolutionary. But the clinic must be open – at least more than two hours a day.
And it must be made known. These clinics are not advertised. WRHA officials say that public information sheets about the clinics have been provided to ER's, the pain clinic and centers for acute mental health and community health care. Information about the clinics is also shared with the primary care network, says the WRHA. In other words, people in the healthcare know about it and that's it. That is not good enough.
Given the seriousness of the problem of alcohol and drug abuse in this city, these clinics must be widely publicized. An awareness campaign should be organized to advertise the clinics so that the general public is aware of this.
And they must be open for more than two hours a day.
Friesen says that this is just the beginning, a starting point that can lead to longer hours. But why wait? Everyone in the medical field knows that there is a huge demand for it. I'm not sure what the government is waiting for.
There is no easy solution to the meth-crisis that has gripped Winnipeg or the many other problems with the misuse of resources that lead to violent crime, household failures, injuries and death. But the idea of a walk-in clinic for people struggling with substance abuse is far too good to be open only 10 hours a week.
The government must review this and significantly expand these hours. The situation is too daunting to postpone.