TIMMINS -- Since the fall, health officials in Timmins have been working to create a supportive environment for people struggling with addictions.

"The city of Timmins, the addictions services, Ontario Health, CMHA, we’ve all been working to try and mitigate some of the tragedies that have occurred in our community," said Natalie Carle, director of clinical care at Timmins and District Hospital.

"We’ve really come together as a community—including the hospital, the nursing staff, the support staff and the physicians," said Doctor Louisa Marion-Bellemare.  

"The hospital has been very supportive in providing care for people with substance use disorders." 

Since adding more acute withdrawal services at the hospital in December, they said dozens of lives have been saved from overdoses; and they said people struggling with addictions have more choices when it comes to getting the help they need, when they need it.

To date, the two new acute withdrawal management beds the hospital has provided have helped fifty-six people.  The majority of people are being admitted with opioid addictions; others with alcohol related withdrawal issues.

"The length of stay is fairly short," said Carle. "It’s just to get them stabilized on either medication to support the withdrawal and then the team is really working closely with all the other service providers to determine what is the next step. Are they going to residential treatment programs, to a safe bed, to a phase two bed in Smooth Rock Falls, to other residential services out of Timmins?"

"Those numbers don’t include the people that our addictions team in our hospital has supported in other areas of the hospital, including the surgical floor, the medical floor, the mental health unit, the maternity floor. So we’re looking at well over one-hundred people since December," added Marion-Bellemare.

Both Marion-Bellemare and Carle said they're encouraged by the results, but there is still a lot of work to be done.  

"There’s still people that are facing barriers," said Carle. "From a community and a team perspective (it) is really to reduce those barriers.  Really not having people to wait, or to, you know, or (not) being able to access the services.  We really want to be there when people are ready."

"And we have a wait list," said Marion-Bellemare.  

"We don’t like turning people away. We don’t want to turn people away. We know when we turn people away it increases their risk of overdose and death. So we want to bring people in the minute they ask for help."

Marion-Bellemare said fatal opioid overdoses reached a crisis level last year with twenty-nine opioid related deaths in Timmins alone and while she said it's hard to project,“the rate it’s at right now, we will potentially be worse than 2020."

For now, they say the most important thing is they are meeting people where they're at.

"People know they can come to emerge, they can come to our hospital and feel safe and now that they can ask for help and they're going to be treated, but unfortunately we could probably have ten withdrawal beds in our hospital," said Marion-Bellemare.

Whether it's in the hospital, in their homes, at the Living Space homeless shelter or in jail, people can have access to addictions services. 

"We have people available 24-7 through the physician addiction medicine consult team," added Marion-Bellemare.  

"We also have staff available during the weekend ... people in the community can call and self refer." 

She said they could be working around the clock and that is why they are currently working on a proposal to the province, asking for more funding to provide more help since the high number of people seeking help speaks for itself.