SUDBURY -- For the last few years, paramedics in Sudbury have been diverting some patients away from the emergency room and bringing them instead to "alternative" clinics.

It is part of a pilot project implemented in 2015, with Sudbury being the first place it was tried, and now, it's about to become permanent.

The two alternative sites paramedics can take patients to are: the withdrawal management clinic and mental health and addiction centre on Cedar Street.

Melissa Roney is the acting deputy chief for Greater Sudbury Paramedic Services.

"We saw patients that we’d bring to the hospital, who would either leave without being seen or it would take some time for them to get their healthcare needs met. So, when we felt they could receive more timely, appropriate care at alternative sites, other than the emergency department, so we found those two sites, which are established programs here in Sudbury, that were receptive," said Roney.

The decision to try the pilot program came after a sharp increase in addictions and mental health-related calls.

Officials with paramedic services in the city say there are roughly 36,000 emergency calls each year

"These calls do account for a certain percentage of our call volumes, so any little bit helps where we’re lessening the pressure on the 9-1-1 system," said Roney.

At Health Sciences North, doctors say from an emergency department point of view, this pilot program is not only beneficial to HSN, but also to the patients.

Dr. Jason Pprpic is the medical director for Health Science North.

"The patients who come into emerg with those presentations often end up getting redirected to those same areas eventually. This way, w'ere just able to take them to that area initially and that way they bypass the emergency department, where often we see them. There’s not much treatment that happens, it’s more of a referral process anyways, so we kind of cut that middle man out," said Dr. Prpic

Rebecca Poulin is a primary care paramedic in Sudbury.

"Somebody who may be suffering, you know, a panic attack, for example. Instead of having to bring them to a busy emerg, we can bring them to crisis, and they can get the care they need rather than being in a more stressful environment," said Poulin.

Officials with the paramedic service say they are currently looking into other opportunities and alternate sites for patients in the near future.