Nova Scotia Health is considering a satellite mental health and addictions clinic for Dartmouth now that three established sites are moving out of the downtown core.
Sam Hodder, the health authority’s senior director of mental health and addictions, told the legislature’s standing committee on health Tuesday that the new location in Portland Hills is on a bus line and is fully accessible.
However, Hodder acknowledged concerns that have been voiced by advocates and people who attend the clinics about moving the sites more than six kilometres away. That’s prompted officials to consider satellite clinic options.
“I can’t exactly say in this moment essentially what that will actually look like, but our team is actively meeting with community partners and government and other stakeholders,” Hodder told the committee.
“It is looking promising, that’s what I will say.”
Earlier this year, the health authority announced the three sites would need to move once their leases end. After a request for proposals returned just one bid, the decision was made to relocate to one site in Portland Hills.
Sue Leblanc, the member of the legislature for Dartmouth North, said she likes the idea of having the three services under one roof, but the location is problematic.
The majority of people who use Connections Dartmouth on Portland Street, Belmont House on Alderney Drive and a clinic on Wyse Road come from her district.
Many of them already have challenges getting to downtown and the move to Portland Hills complicates that even further, she said.
“It’s the difference between getting the service and not getting the service,” said Leblanc. “For people who live in Dartmouth North, getting downtown can be hard.”
Leblanc has pushed for the addition of a satellite option, and she said she’s pleased by how receptive health authority officials are to the idea.
Dr. Andrew Harris, senior medical director of mental health and addictions for Nova Scotia Health, said officials are doing what they can to improve access to services, including expanding virtual care. However, he said they do not have complete control over clinic locations.
Health-care officials often confront stigma when it comes to placing a site, which can be a particular issue for clinics that offer mental health and addictions support, he said.
Harris said patients and their advocates often “have to fight doubly hard” to be validated.
“I would ask [people] to look at it in a more positive light, if possible,” he said.