In June 2020, Ontario’s Chief Coroner announced a 25% increase in suspected drug-related deaths between March to May 2020 compared to 2019*.

This statistic may sound alarming, but local frontline social service providers saw this as a possible problem in Chatham-Kent and alerted the Mental Health and Problematic Substance Use Social Planning & Action Table right away. Being alone can be a real trigger for many, which can lead to accelerated usage. 

When people are in crisis, organizations like Westover Treatment Centre in Thamesville are doing what they can to keep their doors open.

On Victoria Road South there is an old manor. For some driving by it looks like a beautiful home, for others it is a sign of hope. This property is the home to Westover Treatment Centre, an addiction treatment centre fully accredited by the Canadian Centre for Accreditation. 

Founded in 1986, they practice abstinence-focused residential treatment. They work on supporting individuals recovering from chemical dependencies, as well as providing support services to their friends and family.


This time last year, Westover was operating as normal. Offering in-house, multi-day, and weekend programming for those looking for help with problematic substance use.

As the pandemic was spreading across Ontario, 70% of residential treatment centres shut their doors. 

“Westover is an exception to the rule. We have managed to keep our doors open to keep helping people.”
Laird BrushExecutive Director, Westover Treatment Centre


Westover quickly adapted to new protocols to prevent interruption of their services and to offer their clients and staff and safe place to stay and operate.

Executive Director Laird Brush says their success is attributed in part to their staff’s compassion to maintaining small personal bubbles to protect clients, mandatory use of masks, increased cleaning of common areas, and shifting how their operations run, such as requiring COVID-19 testing on admission, restructuring how meals are served and restricting outside guests.

“Hand sanitizer, gloves, disposable and cloth masks --  all of these are costs we were not expecting and had not budgeted for before COVID,” said Brush. “Prior to COVID, the only personal protection equipment our staff needed was gloves for the kitchen staff.”

Jane Elliott, Director of Administration & Finance, says simple things like switching meals from buffet-style to cafeteria-style can easily add additional costs, such as:

  • The need for kitchen equipment like portioning cups and serving trays
  • supplies like disposable plates, cups, and cutlery
  • personal protection equipment and cleaning supplies
  • additional hours required to individually portion food, individually serving the food and, properly sanitizing touchpoints and common areas 

To help with these unforeseen costs, United Way of Chatham-Kent and the Co-Investor Table is providing funds from the COVID Emergency Support Fund (CESF) to help cover the additional costs now needed to operate.

“If we were to close our doors, or if it was more difficult to get here, we believe people would end up in the emergency room, detox, or the morgue. This disease kills people.”
Laird BrushExecutive Director, Westover Treatment Centre


Westover has spent more than 30 years providing quality care for people in Southwestern Ontario with a holistic treatment model. In 2021, they are looking to include more streaming and online support to help clients who have difficulty finding transportation to Thamesville. “When people can’t get to us, we will get to them with programs, classes, and more community support online.” said Elliott.

With other treatment centres closed or not running at full capacity it has increased wait times for people looking to stay at the residence. For those seeking treatment, it is encouraged that anyone waiting to stay at Westover attend the Virtual Recovery Support Program to keep up your motivation, get an idea of what to expect through the healing process, and meet others who are on their path to recovery.


To learn more about Westover Treatment Centre visit


*2020, June 10. CBC News: Pandemic Worsens Canada’s deadly opioid overdose epidemic