Lethbridge Herald

South Country eyeing modern addictions facility

Treatment centre looking to the future

- Dave Mabell LETHBRIDGE HERALD dmabell@lethbridge­herald.com

More than 10,000 southern Albertans have gained a new lease on life there, over the last 40 years. It’s helped men and women overcome their addictions to drugs, gambling and alcohol.

Now the South Country Treatment Centre is looking to the future, with plans for a modern facility that will allow expanded service to clients and families.

Executive director John La Forest says the aging facility — a collection of modular trailers — has become increasing­ly expensive to maintain. And it provides no access for clients with mobility challenges.

A new, $4.5-million facility would provide a modest increase in size — to 24 beds — while remaining financiall­y viable, La Forest says. It could also support outpatient programs and other client service initiative­s.

South Country, a non-profit agency, is governed by a local board of directors. It’s part of a network of nonprofit and government-run treatment centres in communitie­s across Alberta.

Like others, it’s helping clients who’ve become addicted to opioid drugs like fentanyl. But cocaine and alcohol abuse remain the most common issues here, La Forest reports.

Clients are usually admitted for residentia­l care within two to four weeks of their initial interview, he adds. Some may begin treatment sooner if there’s a cancellati­on.

South Country programs focus on the client, he points out — not the addiction. It uses a “trauma informed” care approach, helping clients recognize and deal with issues in the past which they may be masking through their addictive behaviours.

“You can’t fix a car until you have diagnosed the problem,” he says, and it’s the same for individual­s with their own particular issues.

“It is a very safe, proactive and effective way of helping individual­s find a healthy recovery.”

Each client’s needs are identified and then appropriat­e assistance is provided, as well as referrals for ongoing follow-up after the 28-day program. La Forest says South Country is able to work closely with Southern Alcare and other local agencies which are also providing front-line service.

He credits South Country counsellor­s — all graduates of the addictions counsellin­g or social work programs offered through the University of Lethbridge — for positive outcomes for a high number of clients. Ongoing reports show an 86 per cent “success rate,” with 92 per cent reporting “significan­t change” and a new outlook on life, and 97 per cent saying they would refer anyone dealing with similar problems.

La Forest says South Country, along with its counterpar­ts across the province, receives most of its financial support from Alberta Health Services. Client fees cover about 25 per cent, but they’re covered by Alberta Works if they have insufficie­nt income. While the provincial government may be able to make a contributi­on, he says raising funds for constructi­on of the new building will be a responsibi­lity of the South Country board. In recent years, the board raised the money required to buy its five-acre site adjacent to the agricultur­al research station.

“This agency doesn’t cry a lot for money,” he says.

But families and others who’ve benefitted from its programs over the years will be invited to get involved. So will businesses and trades unions who’ve successful­ly referred men and women to South Country — and put them back to work as they’ve continued their recovery afterward.

A capital fundraisin­g campaign is also being planned for next fall.

“We hope to be moved into the new facility in three or four years,” La Forest says.

But service will continue during constructi­on, since the semi-circular design by architect Alvin Reinhart Fritz will not interfere significan­tly with use of the existing structure.

Alberta’s population is growing, and so is the number of people faced with addictions problems, La Forest points out. A new facility will allow South Country to continue providing effective care for Lethbridge-area residents who need help.

“Our goal is to be a leader in the province.”

 ?? Alvin Reinhardt Fritz Architects ?? Architect design of modern South Country Treatment Centre.
Alvin Reinhardt Fritz Architects Architect design of modern South Country Treatment Centre.

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