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Survey to gauge need for addictions treatment centre

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A recently-launched survey aims to gauge the district’s need for its own addictions treatment centre.

“What we’re looking and hoping to achieve is for each community within our district—that includes all 10 First Nations, Rainy River, Emo, Fort Frances, and everywhere in between—we want to survey all the organizations that deal with anybody that may be referred to a treatment centre,” said Donna Kroocmo, executive director of the Rainy River District Shelter of Hope, which is facilitating the needs assessment survey being funded through Justice Canada.

There’s currently an investor with $1.5 million interested in building a treatment centre in Atikokan, Kroocmo noted.

But this amount isn’t enough to cover the cost of building a treatment centre, so a business plan—complete with data and research—is needed to have a bank help finance the rest.

“Basically, what’s the potential need for a treatment centre in Atikokan?” said Connie Terlesky, who has been hired to collect the data through the survey.

“This is basically just background information that [the investor] needs to have,” she explained.

Terlesky is looking to have service providers, public health nurses, doctors, community counsellors, and “anybody who deals with these issues and can speak to them” complete the survey over the next three weeks.

Those interested in completing the survey—which also is available online at https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RRCommunityNeedsSurvey—can contact Terlesky at 1-807-597-2425.

Once the data is collected, Terlesky will compile it and the findings will be released March 29.

“And hopefully it will show, one way or another, whether it is a very high need or not,” she said.

“I’ve already had comments both ways: ‘Great, we’ll need it’ or ‘I don’t think anybody will come,” she added.

“So it will be interesting.”

Service providers collect data when it comes to issues like substance abuse, noted Kroocmo, but this data is slanted towards each organizations’ perspective and the area they focus on.

For example, local Family and Children’s Services’ data will be skewed towards that which involves children at risk for abuse. And even the shelter’s own data is skewed towards women they see as clients.

“So to get a true picture of what the problem is like in our district, we need all these people together at the table, discussing it openly about what they see, what they identify,” Kroocmo reasoned.

“We’re going into this with a very open mind,” she added, noting at this point, they only can assume what those filling out the survey may see as problems and identify as primary concerns—or even if there is even a need for a treatment centre in the district.

“We see a lot of women with addiction issues that come into the shelter,” said Kroocmo.

But when seeking help for addictions, the biggest fear these women have is losing their children, she added.

Many don’t have support—such as relatives—to look after their children while in treatment, Kroocmo explained. Or if they do, it’s a question as to whether or not that person should be looking after the children due to intergenerational cycles of abuse that may be present.

Or it means having to sign care of their children over to Family and Children’s Services.

A treatment centre in Atikokan could allow women in the shelter to attend treatment during the day, then return back to the shelter’s facilities and their children in the evening, Kroocmo said.

One possibility is to also have a section of the treatment centre geared towards families, added Kroocmo, with a “home-like environment” that would allow family, children, or whoever is needed as a support group for the person being treated.

This also would allow the facility to be more culturally-appropriate to First Nation communities, where involving family and extended family is important for treatment.

Currently, the closest treatment centres include Thunder Bay and Kenora while the closest family-centered one is in Winnipeg.

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