Virtual tool to help those with substance use now available across Windsor-Essex
Windsor, ON: Breaking Free Online (BFO), an innovative virtual care solution for those struggling with substance use is now available through a variety of addiction service providers in Windsor-Essex thanks to a transformational local donation from the Solcz Family Foundation. The donation, announced back in 2019 to the Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare (HDGH) Foundation and Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) supported the implementation of BFO first through HDGH’s eleven mental health and addiction programs and services and then extending its availability to seventeen local addiction service providers last month.

BFO is a completely confidential recovery support program accessed online, wherever, and whenever needed for over 70 substances. It is an evidence-based eLearning software that empowers clients to achieve recovery from substances, including opioids, which has been of particular local concern resulting in high rates of substance-related overdoses. BFO can be accessed through a web browser on most devices, including smartphones, tablets, and desktop computers, and has supported the recovery of over 75,000 individuals in the UK, Canada, and the United States.

“The pandemic has forced us, as healthcare professionals, to start thinking outside the box and re-imagine how we deliver care,” said Patrick Kolowicz, Director of Mental Health and Addictions at HDGH. “An uncomfortable truth in healthcare, also exacerbated by the pandemic, is that health outcomes can be contingent on access to care. The use of technology and low barrier virtual care solutions like Breaking Free Online will enhance access and help support the recovery journeys of individuals where and when they need it.”

HDGH has been using the tool with its clients and patients seeing positive results. Since launching internally in December 2020, the west-end specialty hospital has had 79 clients enroll with a 94.4% retention rate. In a June 2021 report, 64.9% were actively engaged with BFO and have demonstrated clinical improvement in their level of substance dependence.

“As a clinician working with individuals experiencing substance use, BFO has been a welcomed support to treatment as it allows clients to use it in the way that best works for them,” said Sherrie Spencer, an RN in HDGH’s inpatient mental health unit. “Subconsciously, clients can sometimes set themselves up to be in high-risk areas. A great feature of BFO is the location trigger where clients can set high-risk areas using google maps to identify triggers like a liquor store or bar for example. An alert will ping on their BFO Companion App when within 100 meters of the location with a strength-based message and reminder of their individual coping mechanisms already identified for their recovery,” said Spencer.

How does one access the tool? If an individual is receiving services with one of the seventeen local addiction service providers, a staff member will provide clients with a unique code that allows for the setup of their personal BFO account. Upon login, the individual will complete an assessment to understand the issue faced. Individuals can then set personalized recovery achievements that are consistent with their goals.

Addiction is one of the most pervasive healthcare issues facing Canada today. In efforts to continuously learn and improve the client and patient experience, as part of the Solcz Family Foundation donation HDGH is working with Homewood Research Institute (HRI), a well-known and respected national organization dedicated to research that transforms mental health and addiction treatment. HRI will conduct a third-party evaluation of both the internal and community implementation of BFO. HRI will help providers and clinicians understand how BFO is being used, barriers in use, and successes. Most importantly, a majority of the evaluation will involve speaking and working with clients to understand what they need for a life free of addiction.

If you are concerned or experiencing problems and/or negative consequences related to substance use, visit the Windsor –Essex County Health Unit webpage. HDGH’s Withdrawal Management services (Community Outreach and Residential) can help individuals identify and create a withdrawal and recovery plan by connecting them with other addiction service providers.

Alternatively, the HDGH Addiction Assessment and Referral program can assist individuals and service providers if they are unfamiliar or unsure of a recovery strategy, and can also perform standardized addiction assessment and referrals for complex addiction when high-intensity services such as residential treatment are necessary. 

If you are experiencing a mental health and/or addiction-related crisis, HDGH’s Crisis and Mental Wellness Centre at 744 Ouellette Avenue is open Monday-Sunday 8 am-8 pm or the Crisis Line at 519-973-4435 can be accessed 24/7.

Nicole Crozier, Manager of Communications, HDGH
cell: 226-345-9710
About Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare

Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is committed to improving the health and wellbeing of the Windsor-Essex community through the delivery of patient-centred, valued based care. Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is a unique community hospital offering services in Mental Health and Addictions; Rehabilitative Care; Complex Medical and Palliative Care; and Children and Youth Mental Health. We offer a unique blend of services including but not limited to community and home based services. In collaboration with our healthcare and inter-sectorial partners, Hôtel-Dieu Grace Healthcare is providing care in new ways and in new locations throughout the region to address barriers, improve access and patient outcomes and improve the overall patient experience.