Sup­port for addictions cen­tre strong

Har­bour Grace cit­i­zens urge gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed with plans

The Compass - - FRONT PAGE - BY BILL BOW­MAN

If there is any pub­lic con­cern about a pro­posed addictions treat­ment cen­tre op­er­at­ing in Har­bour Grace, there was lit­tle sign of it among the more than 150 towns­peo­ple who turned out for a pub­lic meet­ing on Tues­day, Aug. 30.

Most of the 25 speak­ers who took to the mi­cro­phones dur­ing the two-hour ses­sion were largely in favour of the move. Speak­ers in­cluded peo­ple from all walks of life — law en­force­ment, clergy, health ad­min­is­tra­tors, teach­ers, addictions coun­sel­lors, sev­eral re­cov­er­ing al­co­holics and drug ad­dicts, and those who just called them­selves or­di­nary folk.

Some went as far as to plead with gov­ern­ment to pro­ceed with its plans for a fa­cil­ity they feel is “ long over­due.” For some, it can’t come quickly enough, while for at least one heart­bro­ken family, it is al­ready too late.

Emo­tional roller coaster

“My brother Will is not with us to­day be­cause of a pre­scrip­tion drug ad­dic­tion,” Kathy Tet­ford told the crowd. (Also see let­ter to the editor on Page A4.)

Fight­ing back tears and buoyed by family mem­bers, Tet­ford spoke of the “very emo­tional roller coaster that caused heartache be­yond be­lief to his family.”

Wil­liam Shep­pard be­came de­pen­dent on codeine and other highly ad­dic­tive drugs pre­scribed for back pain as the re­sult of an ac­ci­dent.

With nowhere else to turn for help, Tet­ford said, “his fi­nal visit to the hos­pi­tal Aug. 21, 2010 was his fi­nal cry for help.”

Wil­liam J. Shep­pard Jr. com­mit­ted sui­cide onAug. 26, 2010. He was 52.

If there had been an addictions cen­tre avail­able to Will, the Shep­pard Family be­lieves, “our hand­some, in­tel­li­gent, lov­ing, hard­work­ing, family-ori­ented, ta­lented, heart of gold son, brother and fa­ther would be alive to­day.”

Tet­ford be­lieves the cen­tre will save lives, “and we will wit­ness a de­cline in the num­ber of per­sons suf­fer­ing from de­pen­dency.”

John Dun­phy is as­so­ci­ated with a group of Har­bour Grace cit­i­zens who have ex­pressed con­cerns about hav­ing the cen­tre lo­cated in the SPLASH Cen­tre on Lady Lake Road, a res­i­den­tial area of town.

Dun­phy, the lone voice of dis­sent at last week’s meet­ing, said he wasn’t against the addictions treat­ment cen­tre in prin­ci­ple.

“One would be a fool to go against some­thing that’s so dras­ti­cally needed in our so­ci­ety.” How­ever, he did take ex­cep­tion to the site/lo­ca­tion for the fa­cil­ity.

He said he and his group have had ques­tions about the fa­cil­ity since last year — ques­tions that have never been an­swered. Ques­tions like: “What type of fa­cil­ity is it go­ing to be? And what type of in­di­vid­ual is it go­ing to serve?”

Un­der­stand­ing it would be for long-term, se­vere addictions, Dun­phy wanted to know if they were talk­ing about “ hard core” in­di­vid­u­als.

The term “ hard core” struck a nerve in the crowd, es­pe­cially among the Shep­pard Family.

“My brother (Will) wasn’t hard core,” one family mem­ber was heard to say, adding: “what an id­i­otic ques­tion!”

Vicki Kaminiski, the CEO of East­ern Health, re­sponded by say­ing:”Eas­ily treated addictions don’t ex­ist.”

She added the fa­cil­ity will serve “some­one who needs more sup­port be­cause of long-term addictions.”

Over­whelm­ing sup­port

While he was aware there was sup­port for the fa­cil­ity in Har­bour Grace, Health Min­is­ter and Car­bon­ear-Har­bour Grace MHA Jerome Kennedy told The Com­pass he was “pleas­antly sur­prised by the level of sup­port,” shown by the more than 20 in­di­vid­u­als who stood up to be counted as sup­port­ers of the cen­tre.

And to see so many re­cov­er­ing al­co­holics and drug ad­dicts stand up and bare their souls was “quite amaz­ing,” Kennedy said.

While “it may not have stopped the project,” Kennedy ad­mit­ted, more op­po­si­tion to the project would have been a “ma­jor con­sid­er­a­tion” for gov­ern­ment in reach­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion to pro­ceed.

Based on what he heard, the Health Min­is­ter stated: “ I see no need not to pro­ceed with re­quests for pro­pos­als” to set up and op­er­ate the addictions cen­tre at the SPLASH Cen­tre.

Ef­forts are un­der­way to find a new home for the Com­mu­nity Youth Net­work, which op­er­ates the SPLASH cen­tre. A meet­ing to dis­cuss a pos­si­ble move was sched­uled for Sept. 2, said Kennedy.

He ex­pects it could take about a year be­fore the new cen­tre is ready for op­er­a­tion.

The cen­tre will be lo­cated on the sec­ond floor of the SPLASH Cen­tre, with be­tween 20 to 30 beds. Kennedy said it will cre­ate 20 to 30 new jobs in Har­bour Grace.

Even­tu­ally, there could be 60 peo­ple work­ing in that build­ing, he added, if some acute care, ad­min­is­tra­tion and addictions staff were to move from the Car­bon­ear Hos­pi­tal.

Kathy Tet­ford (left) and Jen­nifer Dob­bin chat fol­low­ing a pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion on a pro­posed addictions treat­ment cen­tre in Har­bour Grace. Both spoke pas­sion­ately about the dire need for such a fa­cil­ity close to home dur­ing the event held Aug. 30 at the Har­bour Breeze in Har­bour Grace.

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