Winnipegger Della George is speaking out after her daughter struggled to access treatment at a Rapid Access to Addictions Medicine clinic (RAAM).
Shared Health, Manitoba’s provincial health organization, markets them as “easy-to-access walk-in clinics” online, but George said, patients waited outside in the cold.
A woman in line told them the clinics sometimes only allow three clients in and turn the rest away, which shocked George.
“Why would they turn people away? These people are lining up like us, you know, in this cold and why would they turn them away?” she said. “This was maybe their only chance. I had no idea that was a real struggle for our people that are addicted and not being able to access, you know, the clinic.”
George’s eldest daughter suffered a neck injury from a car accident more than 15 years ago that required pain medication, she said. George suspects the aftermath led to her daughter’s long-term challenges with addiction.
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“That really changed her. She became a person I didn’t know,” George said.
She says her daughter made a miraculous recovery, which amazed doctors, but her struggles didn’t end there. After years of unsuccessful attempts to get her addictions help, a close call at George’s house two weeks ago changed everything.
“She was just totally out of it,” she said. “I kept on checking up on her to see if she was breathing.”
The next morning, George took her daughter and partner to a Winnipeg RAAM clinic on Magnus Ave. where they were told to stand outside.
To George’s disbelief, at least 10 patients were waiting in line in the cold with no guarantee they’d be seen that day.
George’s daughter got in with the help of a local organization, but she wants the province to provide more resources to make sure everyone gets treatment when they show up.
Shared Health says it’s working to expand access.
“We are aware that limited hours and availability within RAAM clinics may be distressing for those seeking care,” a spokesperson said in an emailed statement.
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They said a new Indigenous-led RAAM clinic, the seventh in the province, will open at Winnipeg’s Aboriginal Health and Wellness Centre in late May, with nearly $900k in funding the province announced in January.
Manitoba has committed more than $11.8 million to RAAM clinics since 2018, a spokesperson for Mental Health and Community Wellness Minister Janice Morley-Lecomte said in an emailed statement Thursday.
The new clinic on Higgins Ave. is expected to serve up to 2,300 patient visits annually, they said.
“It’s good that they’re planning it, but we needed it now, not like months later,” George said.
“I didn’t realize how powerful addiction is, you know, especially with opiates.”
George said she hopes other people will be able to begin their journey to recovery without having to face barriers.
—With files from Global’s Rosanna Hempel
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