Summerside methadone program making a difference

Colin MacLean
Published on January 13, 2014

Dr. Don Ling, medical director of the P.E.I Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program, prepares to speak during a brienfing of the standing committee on health, social development and seniors chair. 

©Guardian photo by Brian McInnis

SUMMERSIDE — The expansion of Prince County’s methadone maintenance and treatment program is being met with a great deal of enthusiasm by the people who operate it.

Health P.E.I. created two new positions — a registered nurse and an addictions worker — at the Community Mental Health and Addictions Services Centre at Prince County Hospital in November.

The increased capacity to see and monitor patients has resulted in more people getting into the methadone program across the province. The Summerside clinic jumped from about 100 patients before the positions were added to 123 patients, and growing, as of Jan. 10.

That’s music to the ears of Dr. Don Ling, medical director of the methadone program.

The more people his program can help, the better, said Ling.

“That’s what keeps me at this. I probably should retire . . . but this work is quite engaging.”

“I just talked to a young man here today from Kings County, and I wasn’t overly optimistic with him when he got into treatment here about four years ago, but he’s really turned his life around,” said Ling.

“When you’re involved like we are, and you see these people and what they do with their lives over four or five years, my God, it’s hard to back off. It’s very powerful.”

Ling has publicly expressed concerns about the limited resources of the provincial program in the past and has advocated the need for expanding it.

These two new positions have gone a long way to improve the program overall, he said.

Amy Gaudet, supervisor of the Summerside methadone clinic, explained that since the November expansion, patients from the Prince County catchment area also no longer have to travel to Charlottetown’s Hillsborough Hospital for as many services.

“We’ve now taken over full case management for the clients here,” said Gaudet.

“They don’t go to Charlottetown for any services any longer, other than induction, which means when people start methadone they go inpatient.”

Glenda Schurman is the new registered nurse at the clinic.

She’s heard first hand accounts from patients who don’t have to travel to Charlottetown as much anymore.

“Most are expressing gratitude that they are able to have treatment closer to their homes,” she said. “I think it puts structure in their lives. They’re more apt to carry through with their treatment.”