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Canadore's delayed addictions treatment centre lurches forward

Despite hopes for an 'early 2024 opening date,' Canadore College says, 'The next phase, including interior walls and rooftop mechanical systems, is expected to proceed quickly. Updates will be provided, where appropriate, as the construction schedule is revised'
Canadore College's Northern Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre of Excellence.

Canadore College is providing a progress update on the construction of its planned addiction treatment centre on Lakeshore Drive in North Bay.

Via its social media channels, Canadore states, "The site of the Northern Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre of Excellence (NOATCE) has been a busy one. The contractor has received the final inspection for the floors, and it is anticipated that the drywalling process will begin once the cement has cured. The next phase, including interior walls and rooftop mechanical systems, is expected to proceed quickly. Updates will be provided, where appropriate, as the construction schedule is revised.

"Canadore College will manage the Centre. An experienced director will lead a team of medical specialists and addiction experts."

The project has followed a long and winding road in the 27 months since it was made public.

In February 2022, Canadore College announced North Bay would be home to a new, fully-staffed 53-bed addictions treatment centre and the school's mental health and addictions students would be trained at the facility. At the same event, Associate Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Michael Tibollo and Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli announced a $6.84 million contribution through the Addictions Recovery Fund "to immediately enhance access to bed-based addiction treatment supports in Nipissing."

More than two years later, the construction site, located on the grounds of a former car dealership located at 352 Lakeshore Dr., is often idle and devoid of workers. In 2022, Canadore's goal was to open by that summer, then it was pushed to early 2023. When Tibollo visited the much-delayed project site in November 2023, he acknowledged the challenges stemming from the delays and the target date was again pushed back to an "early 2024 opening date."

See related: VIDEO: Update on delayed local addiction treatment centre

Tibollo said then, "It's a complicated process from the standpoint of getting all of the permits," when it came to the project's 17-month [now 23-month construction] delay. "It's part of the process of ensuring that we meet all of the standards. The most important thing is to get the doors open as quickly as possible."

Tibollo and the Ford government have played a large role in helping to fund what they hope will one day become Canadore College's Northern Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre of Excellence, although a firm opening date remains elusive.

In July 2022, Canadore announced Wendy Prieur as its choice to lead the facility. Prieur and her staff of five have been on the clock and receiving compensation through much of the construction delay while performing their duties behind the scenes. Prieur said in November 2023, the facility's staff would grow to 22 by opening day.

The owners of the property on which the renovations for the Northern Ontario Addiction Treatment Centre of Excellence have often been at a standstill are also involved in several real estate deals across the province, including Trout Creek Senior Living. The seniors' living centre recently went up for sale due to property tax arrears before a last-minute reprieve.

Details of an agreement between Canadore and Berkshire Enterprises for use of the facility have not been made public but insiders have pegged the term at 25 years. Whispers of issues with contaminated soil due to the remnants of the car service area at the 352 Lakeshore Dr. property were flatly denied to BayToday by Michael Anobile, whose company is the property owner of record.

The local treatment options have been in flux for years. Since 2017, various cuts and program shuffling have seen withdrawal beds shifted from the North Bay Regional Health Centre's King Street West campus to the hospital's Acute Inpatient Psychiatry Unit (AIPU) on College Drive.

In 2020, stemming from the discussions from then-Mayor Al McDonald's roundtable, a more balanced continuum of care was sought.

In a 2020 opinion piece from Brian Rush, an expert in the field of substance abuse treatment, clarified why services were changing in North Bay. "A community-based residential treatment facility is being phased out and a host of new community programs being phased in," Rush wrote.

The reasoning behind the Ford government building the Lakeshore Drive 53-bed treatment centre so soon after the closure of a similar 29-bed program has never been fully explained.

"It is important that people are carefully matched to the level of care they need as residential treatment is resource-intensive and, further, not everyone with substance use-related challenges requires this option for a positive recovery outcome," according to Rush. "Other factors such as work responsibilities and child care also mean not everyone can participate fully in residential services. A wider range of options are required and supported by Needs-Based Planning."

Rush, who holds a PhD and is an emeritus scientist with the Institute for Mental Health Policy Research at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH), said a service gap had been identified by various providers involved and a consensus was reached at the roundtable.

"Through Needs-Based Planning work, we found an imbalance in North Bay, with an over-supply of community-based residential treatment, offered by both the hospital and North Bay Recovery Home and a shortage of other options, including a range of community outpatient and day/evening treatment services."

Stu Campaigne

About the Author: Stu Campaigne

Stu Campaigne is a full-time news reporter for, focusing on local politics and sharing our community's compelling human interest stories.
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