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Future unclear of central Alberta addiction facility closed by Alberta Health

Red Deer Advocate - 11/16/2019

A central Alberta addiction recovery centre closed by Alberta Health last month may not reopen, says its director.

The province announced on Oct. 22 it was shuttering the Addiction Recovery Network Inc. facility, about 60 kilometres southwest of Sundre, "in light of concerns about public safety."

Numerous complaints alleging poor safety, quality of care and inappropriate financial practices had been received, Alberta Health said.

An Oct. 23 closure order from Alberta Health Services said inspectors found a number of health and safety infractions in and around the kitchen. Well water was found not to be safe for human consumption, with no sampling plan in place.

Recovery centre director John Haines said the water well issue has become the centre of a legal dispute, with the company alleging the previous owner, which sold them the former Mountain Aire Lodge for an addiction treatment facility, was responsible for ensuring wells were up to standard.

Haines said legal action is also being considered against the province for its handling of the closure.

"Alberta Heath Services trumped up the whole thing," he said. "We have lawyers looking into everything right now."

Haines said Alberta Health Services inspected the facility in June, and again in July and August. Various deficiencies were pointed out and addressed by the recovery centre.

In September, a new well was drilled, but it had not passed all of the approval steps by the time the closure order was issued. In the meantime, safe drinking water was being brought in for staff and clients at the recovery centre, he said.

Haines said many of the deficiencies pointed out in the closure were identified previously and had been addressed.

"The clients were never in danger, ever," he said. "(Authorities) did this in a vexatious manner."

Haines said the Ontario-based company ran an addiction treatment centre for five years in Alberta, but he is not sure it will reopen.

"We have a bad taste in our mouth now for Alberta, unfortunately," he said. "At this point, I can honestly say, I have doubts about ever opening in Alberta.

"This has been a terrible experience, and it's unfortunate."

Alberta Health spokesman Tom McMillan said the "entire Addiction Recovery Network facility was closed by Alberta Health Services under the Public Health Act. In addition, Alberta Health ordered all operations at the facility to cease pending an investigation under the Mental Health Services Protection.

"The investigation is ongoing and no decisions will be made until the investigation is complete," said McMillan.

Haines said 16 people — some of them going through detox — were in the recovery centre when it was ordered closed. Eight took the government up an offer to go to a facility in Lloydminster, but the others ended their treatment early.

A staff of 25 also lost their jobs when the facility closed.

The company also operates two facilities in Ontario.


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