Support for addictions centre strong
Harbour Grace citizens urge government to proceed with plans
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.”
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.