New support centre opening in Halifax to help those struggling with addiction

A new outpatient recovery support centre is opening in Halifax for people struggling with addiction, substance use and gambling disorders.

The Nova Scotia government says the goal is to make it as easy as possible for people to get the help they need when they need it.

"Addiction is a complicated set of problems and we don't differentiate what type of addiction that we're dealing with," said Dr. Dave Martell, physician lead for Mental Health and Addictions with Nova Scotia Health.

The centre, which opens on June 13, will be staffed by a team of physicians, registered nurses, social workers, and administrative staff.

Dr. Dave Martell, the physician lead for Nova Scotia Health's mental health and addiction program, said the goal of the centre is to be accessible.
Dr. Dave Martell, the physician lead for Nova Scotia Health's Mental Health and Addictions Program, said the goal of the centre is to be accessible. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

It will offer in-person assessments, harm reduction and recovery support, group programming, and outpatient withdrawal management.

Martell said the hope is not only for the centre to be accessible, but to be a welcoming environment where people feel comfortable to come forward and ask for help.

"People who are suffering from and living with an addiction often feel very isolated, very distant from their community, from their family, and starting to put those relationships back in place can be very complicated," he said.

"Trust is hard to build. So that's one of the things we really focus on in this clinical setting."

The recovery centre is not open 24/7 like a hospital facility, but will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. AT Monday to Saturday, with plans to expand hours once the clinical team grows.

The new recovery centre on Fenwick St. will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday to Saturday. Drop-ins are welcome, and a referral from a healthcare provider is not required.
The new recovery centre on Fenwick Street in Halifax will be open from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. AT Monday to Saturday. Drop-ins are welcome, and a referral from a health-care provider is not required. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

"Rather than have to get on a waitlist to be admitted to a hospital and have to deal with all the hospital rules and regulations, we are able to provide a much more flexible model for people," said Dr. Sam Hickcox, physician consultant with Nova Scotia Health's Mental Health and Addictions office.

Hickcox said about 80 per cent of people with moderate to severe substance use disorders or gambling disorders do very well in a daytime clinical setting and do not necessarily need an overnight in-patient bed.

People can come to the centre, go through detox, then join one of the group-based programs offered at the site.

"They can develop relationship with clinical therapists here and with social workers, and get ongoing care in a way that a short-term intensive in-patient detox program really doesn't have the resources to provide," Hickcox said.

Dr. Sam Hickcox with Nova Scotia Health said the new recovery support centre offers a more flexible model than a hospital for people dealing with addiction.
Dr. Sam Hickcox with Nova Scotia Health said the new recovery support centre offers a more flexible model than a hospital for people dealing with addiction. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

The new centre is also hoping to help people who are living in nearby encampments who may be dealing with addiction or substance use. Social workers at the centre will have time earmarked to go out to the encampments to build relationships and assess people for whatever needs they may have.

"It's going to take time, but the idea is that we're not just going to try to stay inside our little box here, but really get out on the street and get to know people," Hickcox said.

It's the eighth of 12 centres the province has been working to get up and running over the past two years. The first one opened in Dartmouth in January 2022.

Martell said they hope to have the last four operating by next year.

The new centre is located on Fenwick Street in south-end Halifax. People can drop in or make an appointment by phone, and they do not need a referral from a health-care provider.