Cities across the nation are grappling with how to handle ongoing substance abuse problems -- leading to crime, the destruction of families and even death.

Windsor is no exception -- with opioid-related fatalities up 33 per cent in 2019 over last year, according to Public Health Ontario.

But now, the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative has an ambitious plan to start a new treatment program focusing on the root of the problem -- trauma.

Hughie Carpenter knows that treatment path very well. 20 years ago, the Windsor man says he was a con and a drug user, living in a group home with a crowd that encouraged him into a life of using drugs in order to cope.

"That just changed my life,” Carpenter recalls. “And this was a calmness that I took on, and it was a facade. I thought I was better, but I was living in a fantasy."

It wasn't until he looked at the root cause -- his feeling of isolation stemming from childhood trauma that he found an escape from addiction.

“It's been 20 years and I've gone through some trauma in my life and I've started dealing with that trauma," Carpenter says.

And that's what RE:ACT Windsor aims to do by providing trauma-informed care for people overcoming addictions.

"Almost every addict experienced dramatic, traumatic experiences as a child, and is playing out in negative ways and negative behaviors as adults," says Bob Cameron, the executive director of the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative.

The DWCC is partnering with All Saints Church to deliver the pilot program which would initially help 15 people through a two-phase, 90 day program.

They want to act swiftly -- as the city's drug problem is only getting worse.

According to Public Health Ontario, here were 48 opioid-related deaths in Windsor-Essex in 2018.

“This is really hitting a nerve, we're getting a pulse on folks pain, and realizing this helps to address where it has not worked in the past," Cameron says, adding addicts often turn to crime to feed their addictions which affects the wider community.

What makes matter worse is that addicts can wait, in some cases, for nearly a year to receive treatment.

“Often someone says ‘I'm ready now,’ but by the time something becomes available weeks later, (their) passion has drifted," says Cameron.

The Windsor Essex County Health Unit is a supporter of the plan, having seen this method work in other cities like Winnipeg and Surrey, B.C.

The Health Unit will measure the success of RE:ACT Windsor by touching base with patrons a year after the initial treatment is complete, and compiling data on the effort.

"That info can be used to continue to support the ongoing program and making decisions and strategizing as well," says Dr. Felicia Lawal of the Health Unit.

But getting the program off the ground will take more than vision. Cameron says It will also take $150,000.

"A lot of folks have had this touch their hearts personally, and their families, and so we're giving them an opportunity in participating in funding this personally," says Cameron.

To that end, he’s is appealing to the community to help raise the money by Sept. 30 through donations and grants.

If that happens, they will embark on an extensive training program with trauma-based addictions counsellors from Winnipeg, with the hope of launching programming on Oct. 1, 2019.