By Herald on November 13, 2020.
Fresh Start Recovery Centre is bringing its national award-winning treatment program, its dedicated alumni, and its vast network of financial supporters to begin a recovery journey in Lethbridge which will hopefully make a powerful impact for years to come.
“I believe this community wants some solutions, and wants to be involved,” says Stacey Petersen, who serves as the organization’s executive director. “If you look at what Fresh Start Recovery Centre is it’s not just a building. You have the alumni, you have all the donors, you have Calgary and the province. They are all part of the movement. We have thousands of years of recovery within the Fresh Start Movement and it’s alumni.”
Fresh Start took over operations at South Country Treatment Centre in what Petersen calls a “friendly acquisition” in early November. The organization says it has ambitious plans to expand the reach of the centre, which currently has 23 beds, over the next few years, and to embed itself as a significant contributor to the region’s continuum of care for those struggling with addiction.
“Once we start moving this recovery continuum,” he says, “and this provincial government has been an incredible support of a recovery-oriented system of care, and expanding this continuum of care we are also talking about pre-treatment, we are talking about post-treatment housing– so you get the whole continuum in there. Whether you have harm reduction on one end of it to get somebody stabilized, get them through to pre-treatment, and then into treatment, post-treatment and then housing– so there are a number of different groups we are interested in working with. We will work with them, but we will also expand our own beds. Mark my words: it won’t be 23 beds here for very long. There is a definite trajectory to expand and increase by a minimum of another 50 beds on site.”
The man tapped to lead Fresh Start into this new Lethbridge frontier is Tony Kokol, who serves as operations manager at the Fresh Start South Country Recovery Centre. Kokol comes to Lethbridge with 10 years experience with Fresh Start in Calgary and an eagerness to explore new frontiers.
“I wanted to come here because I think we can make an impact and serve the people of southern Alberta,” Kokol says. “On a personal level it’s an adventure and it’s exciting. Working at Fresh Start for 10 years, I‘ve seen the successes. It’s an easy sell for me because I believe in the product, and the product works. We’re in the business of success, and I have seen that success 100-fold, and I know we can assist southern Alberta in the same way.”
“We didn’t have a design on Lethbridge,” agrees Petersen. “We weren’t thinking let’s get down there and do something. In our strategic planning we thought about expanding to create more recovery and treatment opportunities for people in Alberta because we are interested in a solution to a long standing problem. The South Country Treatment Centre board of directors approached us.
“Our trajectory has been true,” he adds. “We have stayed on point in terms of finding recovery which is real, that is obtainable, and it is sustainable.”
Kokol expands on this point.
“We believe our service will be of benefit to the people of the south,” he states. “We believe in recovery for everybody in all areas of their lives. We believe from what we have heard, and when the South Country board approached us, that we can make an impact and bring that recovery continuum here and help save lives. I think from our experience, our track record, our management team, we as an organization will be able to make a great impact.”
Petersen says he and Kokol look forward to getting to know the local treatment and recovery environment, and to making meaningful contacts within the larger community and region. He has also been pleased with the welcoming reception Fresh Start already seems to have garnered in the community.
“I think the way we deliver treatment, we are always solution-focused,” he says. “There is an epitaph across our front door: ‘There is no can’t.’ We’re very resourceful; so if we need outside partners Tony, our board, and I will be building relationships in Lethbridge. We have also had a ton of people already, in a positive way, say, ‘We are so happy you guys are coming.’ So the coconut telegraph (word of mouth) has been really effective.”
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