We attended the Chamber of Commerce "Good Morning Cambridge" Breakfast - A Conversation on Healthcare, Opioids and Our Community. The meeting featured Lynn Perry Executive Director of the Bridges, Regional Councillor Helen Jowett and Cambridge Memorial Hospital CEO Patrick Gaskin.
Emergency visits up 50%
A very informative discussion revealed that to date CMH emergency has seen nearly a 50% increase in opiod related visits over 2018. Lynn Perry related that the Bridges has worked hard to improve relations with EMS, with whom they depend on in partnership and the presence of an EMS vehicle doesn't necessarily mean an emergency - it could mean planning, training, or a social visit to build trust with residents and staff who must collaborate smoothly during emergencies.
Overdoses are changing shelter roles dramatically
Six years ago there was never an overdose, but now it is a regular and all too frequent occurrence. The necessary training and skills required of Bridges staff is significant and expensive. Dealing with the stress of finding someone unconscious and blue, then the adrenalin rush of fighting to save them is now an occupational hazard requiring careful management and support.
All services becoming stressed out
Helen Jowett related the need for and difficulty in finding additional police and EMS staff to replace the number of employees on LTD stress leave which has recently grown from 12 to 18%.
Community can remove Stigma as a barrier to success
Lynn Perry discussed how to reduce the stigma that is a barrier for those navigating disability, by chosing words carefully and acting respectfully towards people facing challenges. She appealed to the chamber audience by talking about managing mental health issues from a health and safety perspective. Lynn reminded the audience of the Bridges primary mission, to work hard each and every day to sustain sobriety and to provide the tools and training to sustain housing.
CMH rebuild prevents hosting CTS, no Ontario hospitals do
Patrick spoke of the CMH focus on meeting community needs and that despite this during the current construction and follow on rehabilitation and upgrade of wing B, there just isn't space to accommodate a Consumption and Treatment clinic. He also noted that none of Ontario's 21 current and 15 recently approved clinics are located in a hospital.
Online tests show nearly anyone at risk for addiction
Helen Jowett spoke about the determinants or risk factors for opioid dependency mentioning that there are simple tests on the internet that are a real eye opener regarding who can be affected. Each of us may be only one unfortunate event away from addiction.
CMH and Stonehenge place Peer Worker in Emergency Department
Patrick also spoke about how a partnership with Stonehenge Therapeutic has placed a peer worker with lived experience and street involvement in CMH's Emergency Dept 5 days per week to support people and their families in an overdose crisis while assisting and training hospital staff in caring effectively for this special needs population.
GRCA challenged by rough living
Helen spoke about the challenges faced by the GRCA in dealing with campers living rough and how they will simply pick up and move to another location out of view.
Prevention starts in schools and funding beyond property taxes needed
Helen noted that childhood trauma is a frequent underlying cause of addictive behavior and so intervention on signs of trauma evident in elementary schools needs emphasis. In order to fund the necessary resources, we need sources beyond property taxes.
Community support urgently needed
All spoke of the need for a positive community response. Lynn Perry appealed to everyone for donations to support the Bridges in this expensive and resource demanding work which has significantly increased costs which depend on community donations. Helen noted that the community needs to come along and be supportive as the best success factor will be that "we are all in".
Durocher thanks all who deal with this crisis on our behalf
Greg Durocher thanked all speakers and especially Lynn Perry and the Bridges staff, EMS personnel, and CMH emergency staff for battling on the front lines of this community crisis serving our citizens navigating disability.