Province-wide Recovery Support Centres – Enhancing and expanding withdrawal management and recovery support services across Nova Scotia

Nurses station at the Pictou County recovery support centre in Aberdeen Hospital, New Glasgow
Nurses station at the Pictou County recovery support centre in Aberdeen Hospital, New Glasgow

Nova Scotia Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program (MHAP) is working to improve supports for people living with alcohol and other substance use challenges.

We gathered information on best practice supports for people needing withdrawal management or recovery supports from our patients/families and staff in Nova Scotia and from around the world.

This information helped us plan our new provincial Withdrawal Management Service Delivery Model Continuum.

Our aim is to provide the best possible care and support for people living with harmful substance use. The new provincial Withdrawal Management Service Delivery Model Continuum will:

  • Provide easy to access supports for people to help reduce their use of substances, and help reduce the harms of substance use. 
  • Improve how we work together as a provincial program to support Nova Scotians with their substance use goals.
  • Increase the availability of medication-assisted withdrawal management across the province.

Withdrawal management service provides medical care and support for people experiencing withdrawal symptoms from stopping or reducing use of substances. This care can help people safely withdraw from substances and reduce complications.

MHAP’s new continuum will offer evidence-based medication-assisted withdrawal management. These services will be offered at various locations across the province. Through assessment by a team of trained clinicians’ people will be connected to the service that can best meet their desired goals and needs.

New Recovery Support Centres have opened in New Glasgow at the Aberdeen Hospital, and in Dartmouth at Queens Square Building. Sites in Lunenburg at Fisherman’s Memorial Hospital, and Middleton at Soldiers Memorial Hospital, have also realigned with the new model.

The reception area of the Dartmouth Recovery Support Centre.

“Most people don’t need a hospital stay to withdraw from substances. Medication-assisted withdrawal management can also safely occur in a community clinic or home setting,” said Dr. Dave Martell, physician lead, addiction medicine with Nova Scotia Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Program.

At the Recovery Support Centres, a multidisciplinary team of nurses, social workers, counselors, nurse practitioners, physicians and others will work with people to provide care and support and/or connect them to additional care based on their needs. This may include withdrawal management, opioid agonist treatment, community mental health and addictions programs and other supports available within communities.

The program has shown to be a success, with many people in need of help appreciating the services offered. “I enjoy coming to the group, it is a nice atmosphere and all the people are kind and caring. I find the group is helping with my recovery,” said a client from the Recovery Support Centre at the Aberdeen Hospital in New Glasgow.

Staff are also pleased with the positive strides this program is making for those who need assistance in their substance use recovery journeys.

“It has been very gratifying to see the uptake of services on site here in New Glasgow, especially since introducing our Recovery Support Program Group modules in June. It’s great to see clients in different stages of recovery share their experiences and actively participate towards their personal goals,” said New Glasgow Recovery Support Centre nurse, Carley Gilby.

“Having the opportunity to witness clients attend outpatient withdrawal management when we first opened, to seeing them now, attending groups multiple times a week and acting as a positive role model to others in the groups has been truly rewarding.”

We have evidence that this treatment alone typically has short-term benefits for people who need medication-assisted withdrawal management. Withdrawal management meets only the physical needs of a person with substance use disorder. Other critical care, during and after withdrawal management, includes education, counselling, or other services to help foster hope and provide support during a person’s recovery journey.

This project received an Award of Excellence in Mental Health & Addictions Quality Improvement through the 2023 Nova Scotia Health Quality Awards. This award honours a hospital, health authority, or community program/service demonstrating evidence-informed and sustained quality improvements in mental health and addictions.

MHAP identified the need to enhance the service delivery model for withdrawal management beginning in 2018. To begin this work, a structured and comprehensive process occurred to identify and develop a provincial evidence-informed Withdrawal Management Service Delivery Model Continuum. Aims of the model included producing a provincial program of care and increasing client access to the most appropriate level of evidence-informed withdrawal management and psycho-social services. This model is being implemented and evaluated across the province, including the development and launching of new Recovery Support Centres. There will now be a total of 10 recovery support centres in Nova Scotia to provide more compressive, accessible withdrawal support to our population.