April 23rd, 2024

Recovery community opening offers fresh start out of addictions


By Lethbridge Herald on September 21, 2023.

Provincial and local officials help cut the ribbon on Thursday morning to officially open the Lethbridge Recovery Community facility, which the province says will provide long-term addictions treatment to as many as 200 people per year. Herald photo by Steffanie Costigan

Al Beeber – LETHBRIDGE HERALD – abeeber@lethbridgeherald.com

Dawn has risen on a new era in addictions treatment in Alberta.

The Lethbridge Recovery Community officially opened on a chilly Thursday morning with government officials speaking at the facility on the Jail Road in the County of Lethbridge.

The Lethbridge Recovery Community, operated by the adjacent not-for-profit Fresh Start Recovery Centre, will provide long-term addictions treatment to as many as 200 people per year. Service is free of charge to Albertans, with funding of the entire operation coming from the province. Those operating costs are expected to be $3.4 million annually at the facility that was opened with a $19 million capital investment.

The facility increases treatment capacity by about 65 per cent. 

Alberta Minister of Mental Health and Addiction Dan Williams said at the end of speeches by dignitaries including two MLAs, a County of Lethbridge councillor and two provincial ministers that “addiction doesn’t discriminate. Being addicted to opioids isn’t a death sentence, it’s a challenge that can be overcome.”

The Lethbridge facility is the second opened by the province so far with nine more under construction or planned.

Recovery communities provide addicts with the resources, tools and time to recover, says the province.

Bruce Holstead, executive director of Fresh Start, said each individual is different and the community has a client-centric approach which works around their needs.

While the facility has 50 beds, so far there are 10 clients being served by the community.

Williams cited Minister of Seniors Community and Social Services Jason Nixon as a key partner in the work he’s doing, saying the recovery model can’t be implemented without addressing housing and homelessness and looking at it from a holistic point of view.

“The reason a recovery community is so important is because we understand the deadly disease of addiction has for too long ravaged our families, our communities.” 

He said addiction either ends in pain, misery and death or in treatment and recovery at a centre like this with addicts getting a new lease on life.

“So we in Alberta are focusing on investing in recovery and saving as many lives as we can knowing that addiction – that deadly disease – is taking people away from their families, taking people away from their communities and often taking people away from life itself,” added Williams.

The first recovery community opened in Red Deer in May.

“This facility is important because what it does is it focuses on long-term recovery, it focuses on those who have the lowest possible recovery capital, those who have spent their resources and energy and have nowhere else to turn,” said Williams

“This is about treating the entire individual holistically, we’re not looking at just a part of it. Being in recovery is more than abstaining from drug use; being in recovery is about an entire person,” Williams added. He said it’s about addressing social skills, employment, family connections and a sense of community so they can integrate wholly back into society.

MLA for Lethbridge East  and Minister of Affordability and Utilities Nathan Neudorf said the community has taken a lot of work and effort to get to the point where the doors have opened.

“It does take so many different individuals and different entities to reach some of these individuals, to care for them, to get them off the streets and out of homelessness and into recovery and treatment,” said the MLA.

He said a partnership with the Blood Tribe is tremendously important, citing the work of Charles Weaselhead of the Blood Tribe Department of Health in reaching people who had not been able to be reached.

“We look forward to the future with another nine treatment and recovery centres opening across the province so we can actually provide the pathway for individuals where there was no hope for them just a few years ago.”

He said he’s proud to be part of a government that takes “such a compassionate approach” to addiction.

Joseph Schow, MLA for Cardston-Siksika and Minister of Tourism and Sport, told the audience “this is a long time coming” saying he was honoured to be part of the opening which will bring hope and dignity to the community. That hope is for a brighter future  after a person has been freed from the cycle of addiction and dignity through the recovery process, he said.

“This treatment facility means so much to southern Alberta and to the families who are caught as well,” Schow added, noting there is collateral damage to addictions.

Lorne Hickey, a councillor with Lethbridge County, said the facility “is a fresh start for all Albertans. Life is very precious and we’re very honoured this facility is here.”

Holstead said no government in his experience has taken such a forward thinking approach to addiction as the present one.

“It crosses no lines, there’s no family members, there’s no community, it impacts all. . .it affects everyone and we need to come together to break down that stigma and introduce the idea of recovery into the community,” said Holstead.

“We can’t do this alone, we need to do this together and we all have something to contribute and it’s important. We need to push ahead,” Holstead added.

Charles Weaselhead of the Blood Tribe Department of Health said the most vulnerable will receive the support they require so they and their loved ones have renewed hope and another chance at enjoying what many take for granted.

He said the department as enjoyed a good relationship with Fresh Start and is pleased about the expanded capacity “to do the good work they do.”

He said the BTDH looks forward “to working together in the future as we all collaborate and help those who are most in need. This government has demonstrated a real connection to the needs of our people’s experience in addition problems. The program will make a difference in the lives of people, family and our community,”  added Weaselhead who is on Williams recovery expert advisory panel.

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