North Vancouver builds addiction recovery house

News Provincial

On Dec. 18, North Vancouver began building its first licensed recovery house for women suffering from alcohol and drug addiction. Much of the funding received for the project has been a part of the larger Federal-provincial initiative to fund a range of housing needs for low-income individuals.

The North Shore, nine-bed facility is a two-million-dollar project that will be equipped with counselling, education and support services. Its operations are managed by Turning Point Recovery Society, a non-profit group that uses an abstinence-based recovery approach.

Brenda Plant, Turning Point executive director, said, “What we do is three to five months, 24-7 supervision, very structured program, very heavy emphasis on counselling and developing individual treatment or service plans and helping people stabilize. Many of our folks come from detox and outpatient programs that need a little bit more structure, and they need help building the support network that they are going to engage with to maintain their recovery after they leave us.”

Recovery houses like this are few in B.C., said Kelly Sharman, addiction outpatient co-ordinator for the Vancouver Island Health Authority in an email. The local area operates a residential detox unit and three recovery houses.

“Victoria has no residential treatment facility. Substance-use services vary widely in B.C., but most communities have a combination of services provided directly by the local health authority and services provided by non-profit community agencies on a contract basis. There are private residential and day treatment services in many communities (including Victoria) that operate as private businesses with no financial support from health authorities,” wrote Sharman.

Lilac Place and Holly Place are both local outpatient services specifically for women. Admission pends a referral by an addictions counsellor.

The project started three years ago, Plant said, when Turning Point and partners realized 25 to 30 per cent of their clients in Richmond were coming from North Shore and, if turned away, were going to other locales where they could access recovery programs. In many cases, these other areas were not recovery programs, but rather the downtown East Side of Vancouver.

This time last year, the North Shore facility was receiving funding and began a dialogue with the District of North Vancouver, but the project was still a polarized issue. Some residents wanted to keep the space designated for community parkland alongside the existing Murdo Frazer Park. With the formation of the Neighbourhood Advisory Committee, Plant said community members have since withdrawn much of their original opposition. The committee is an open forum for residents to report concerns they may have. Plant said the project has been overwhelmed with support, and the community is now very welcoming.

Until Jun. 10, 2013, the facility’s development was restricted by community park zoning. By adding group home use to the already existing community park designation, the amendment allowed further exemptions to be made, which the district made in the form of a 40-year lease.

“Anytime you are getting someone off drugs and alcohol, you are helping reduce homelessness, hospital stays, ER visits, policing costs,” said Plant.