Bluewater Health welcomed the first clients at its new temporary residential withdrawal management facility Friday.
The 12-bed home-like facility at 306 Exmouth Street will help those transitioning out of the Sarnia hospital's existing seven-bed unit.
It will commonly be called "Ryan's House" in memory of Ryan Hicks who died from a fentanyl overdose in March, 2015. The hospital said the name celebrates the personal commitment to the project by his mother, Laurie Hicks, who has advocated for the services needed to battle Sarnia-Lambton’s addiction crisis.
"It is such an honour for our family to have this house named in memory of Ryan, and to know his story has been heard," said Hicks. "It is very comforting that this incredible addition will provide another resource to those who are determined to overcome their addiction. This will hopefully prevent tragedies and increase recovery success stories, so other families won’t go through the experience we have. It is a very emotional day for all of us."
Hicks is a member of Bluewater Health’s Withdrawal Management Advisory Committee which continues work to secure the approval of a permanent 24-bed addictions centre.
She also advocated for the fentanyl patch-for-patch exchange program, which is now law.
Bluewater Health VP of Mental Health and Addictions Paula Reaume-Zimmer said they transferred the first three clients into the building early Friday.
"They're individuals who recognize that they need a longer stay to put their plans in place, and who are committing to a recovery plan that we can support through Ryan's House," said Reaume-Zimmer.
She said seeing the facility finally open is extremely gratifying.
"The team has worked very hard in moving this project along very quickly. On a daily basis they hear the needs of our clients and today, to be at Ryan's House and receive the first individuals who were transferred over there, the team is talking about feeling emotional, proud and very hopeful about what we're offering now to the community."
-With files from Josh Boyce