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The Chatham-Kent Health Alliance says a new Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine Clinic will help residents struggling with substance abuse.

President and CEO Lori Marshall says the RAAM clinic provides services to people without a referral.

"Anybody who has identified that they need some support with respect to substance abuse can come and access the services," says Marshall.

The clinic is the 56th to open in Ontario since 2016. It is located at 47 Emma Street at the Chatham hospital site. The entrance is located on the west side of the building.

The clinic is only open six hours a week – from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. on Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

But Marshall tells CTV News the hope is that it will relieve pressure on the hospital.

“What we're trying to do is avoid admissions to the hospital emergency department visits or re-admissions and re-visits," says Marshall.

Hospital data from the past three years shows about 27 per cent of patients with a history of substance abuse revisit the ER within 30 days.

In 2018, there were four opioid-related deaths reported to Chatham Kent Public Health. That same year, there were 67 opioid overdose related ER visits.

This year, that number has already climbed to 47.

By comparison, Public Health Ontario shows 48 opioid-related deaths in Windsor-Essex in 2018, a 33 per cent increase from 2017.

The official opening of the RAAM clinic in Chatham comes during the same week council agreed to develop a municipal drug strategy.

"In Chatham-Kent, we have a higher than the national average use of intravenous drugs," says councillor Brock McGregor, whose motion for a drug strategy was approved Monday night.

McGregor tells CTV News the drug problem affects every facet of the community.

"There are issues that relate to building services, to fire and emergency services, to policing to employment and social services to public health," notes McGregor.

One of the discussions that will take place will be the need for a safe injection site.

But health officials do not support one, since it doesn't offer addiction treatment.

Stats are broken down by Local Health Integration Networks, and the data shows 148 people per one-thousand in the Erie St. Clair LHIN were prescribed opioids in 2018.

That is the highest number in the province.