The Cape Breton Post
Published on August 28, 2012
Staff ~ The Cape Breton Post
Premier Darrell Dexter has done the right thing — politically, practically and morally — by reaching out to the Talbot House board of directors in an effort to give the men’s addiction treatment centre a real chance to resume its work.
Before Dexter announced on Aug. 20 the province’s $124.5-million financial package to get the idled NewPage Port Hawkesbury paper mill up and running, he would have weighed the political pros and cons, considering the ratio of supporters to critics. That’s the case with the lion’s share of political decisions.
But sometimes political options are cut and dried. Dexter may have ticked off some Department of Community Services bureaucrats by going to bat for Talbot House, but there was no political upside to the premier essentially ignoring the situation.
On the other hand, the potential for political damage was real, given Talbot House’s history in the community, the optics that a volunteer board made up of articulate professionals was being ill-used, and the increasing number of heartfelt testimonials by those who’ve been helped by Talbot House.
In practical terms, the infrastructure is in place at the Talbot House property in Frenchvale. And the location is advantageous in that it’s a rural setting with the peace and quiet conducive to healing, but is relatively close to the medical and educational services available in the greater Sydney area.
It wouldn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel.
And, though the Talbot House property is leased from the Diocese of Antigonish, it’s unlikely the diocese would entertain leasing the property to another group, given the strong connection between the two entities. Former Talbot House executive director Rev. Paul Abbass also served as the diocese spokesman.
Morally, as Dolores Campbell outlined in an Aug. 25 opinion piece, Talbot House is a testament to its founder Rev. John Webb, and all the volunteers and staff who have kept it running for five decades.
And as Talbot House board member and former client Brad Colbourne intimated during a recent editorial board meeting at the Cape Breton Post, it’s possible that men have died because Talbot House has been closed.
Abbass’s situation is sad. However, he’s concluded that in order for Talbot House to turn a new page, it must be done under a new executive director, though Abbass is very much interested in playing a role at the centre.
Some — such as provincial Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil — have said the province should just restore Talbot House’s funding. But even Talbot House board members have acknowledged that the board and the province should first come to a consensus on how the centre should be run.
Such a consensus isn’t guaranteed, which is ostensibly why the province will entertain other proposals for a men’s addiction treatment centre in Cape Breton.
But, by appointing an intermediary who’s respected in the addiction services field in Cape Breton, Dexter and company are at least — and at last — giving Talbot House a fair shot.
N.S. gov’t to help Talbot House prepare bid to re-open
Published Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 2:11PM ADT
Last Updated Monday, Aug. 27, 2012 4:58PM ADT
The Nova Scotia government says it will help a closed addictions treatment centre in Cape Breton make a bid to re-open.
Today’s announcement on the future of Talbot House came shortly after protesters picketed the offices of two NDP MLAs, including that of House Speaker Gordie Gosse.
Several of the protesters who appeared on Gosse’s doorstep Monday morning have firsthand knowledge of the role Talbot House played in helping addicts, before it closed suddenly in March.
“Talbot House not only saved my life, it gave me life,” says former resident Brian Miles. “A life I never knew was possible.”
Miles says he left behind a life of drugs and crime after being treated at the centre.
“I was addicted to a lot of different drugs. It completely controlled my life,” he says. “I was a slave to my addiction before coming there.”
As protesters marched to the office of Deputy Premier Frank Corbett, there were new developments being made in the case, which included a personal intervention by Premier Darrell Dexter.
Dexter spoke with Bishop Brian Dunn of the Diocese of Antigonish, which owns Talbot House, as well as the head of the centre’s board.
“What we want to do is find a way to resolve what seems to be an impasse with respect to Talbot House and its ability to continue to deliver addictions services in Cape Breton,” Dexter tells CTV News. “We hope to have found that.”
The government previously issued a request for proposals to organizations interested in offering addictions services in Cape Breton but the board of directors at Talbot House said they would not submit a proposal because the Aug. 28 deadline was unrealistic.
The province announced today it has extended the deadline for such a proposal, allowing the centre more time to make an application. It has also appointed addictions expert Wayne Yorke to help Talbot House prepare a bid to re-open.
However, Talbot House would still have to compete for funding before it could resume services it has offered recovering male addicts for more than half a century.
“You heard that gentleman…saying how it saved his life, and many other people’s lives in the history of that facility,” says Gosse. “I think there is still time to work things out.”
Brooke Armstrong, a spokeswoman for the Premier’s Office, says a new deadline hasn’t yet been set and she was unsure how many proposals the government had already received.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Randy MacDonald and The Canadian Press
Talbot House gets more time for drug treatment proposal
The Halifax Chronicle Herald
27 August 2012 – 4:25pm
UPDATED 7:32 p.m. Monday
A closed Cape Breton addictions recovery centre will have more time to answer a provincial call for proposals for the service, the Dexter government announced Monday.
Talbot House will have a yet-to-be-determined extension on Tuesday’s deadline to respond to the Community Services Department’s request for proposals that was issued Aug. 1.
And the province has enlisted addictions service expert Wayne Yorke to help Talbot House officials prepare a response. A spokeswoman for Premier Darrell Dexter’s office said Monday that the province isn’t paying Yorke for his assistance.
Talbot House’s volunteer board issued a statement Friday saying it wouldn’t be submitting a proposal because of the scope of what Community Services expected in a short summer time frame.
Dexter said Monday that it’s reasonable to give the board more time.
“It would be a shame to have a facility which has provided services for a very long time excluded simply because they don’t have the time to put together a proposal,” the premier said in a telephone interview from Sydney.
Talbot House, a men’s recovery centre in Frenchvale, had operated for 53 years before closing in March. A Community Services organizational review released in April listed a range of concerns, including a lack of financial planning, no regular board supervision of the executive director, no job descriptions for staff positions and no clear criteria for admitting residents.
The report also listed several areas where the facility didn’t comply with provincial standards for recovery houses.
The Talbot House board vehemently objected to much of the report, saying it was full of errors and misrepresentations. The board and Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse met in June, but acrimony between the board and department still exists.
On Monday, board chairman John Gainer said he spoke with Dexter and the premier seems sincere in wanting to resolve the situation.
“A very positive step on his part,” Gainer said of the premier’s announcement. “We would see it as the opportunity for a new set of talks or a new discussion with a new set of people, and that may provide some impetus for some changes and some improvements, and hopefully a resolution to this, with the outcome being that funding and support is restored to Talbot House.”
The province provided the 17-bed centre with about $400,000 a year, which was most of the centre’s budget.
Gainer said the Talbot House board will still want to see exactly what the province has in mind for Yorke’s involvement. It also wants to be allowed to select its own consultants on governance and policy issues, and to find out how its proposal will be judged.
The board doesn’t want the author of the organizational review — Marika Lathem, Community Services’ director of family and youth services — involved in assessing a proposal.
Department spokeswoman Nancy Watson said Lathem was listed on the request for proposals as a contact for information but won’t be involved in reviewing the submissions.
Gainer said the board will also want to clarify a requirement for partnership with a methadone treatment program. He said Talbot House’s program is based on abstinence, not harm reduction.
Yorke said he’s open to meeting soon with Talbot House board members. He said his role isn’t yet specifically defined.
“I don’t even want to use the word mediator, but I’m going to assist the Talbot House board in completing its proposal,” he said.
Yorke, a clinical psychologist in Sydney and the Health Department’s regional director of addictions services in eastern Nova Scotia from 1973 to about 1999, said he has worked in addictions services for most of his professional life.
He said he’s getting involved to help restore an aspect of service in Cape Breton.
“There’s people being harmed because of their involvement with drugs and we’ve got to step forward as a community and resolve this,” he said. “How can I say that to other people if I’m not prepared to do it myself?”
Dexter said Yorke and the Talbot House board will talk about what a reasonable time frame would be to prepare a submission, and they’ll pass that information along to the government. The new date will also apply to proposals from other organizations, Dexter said.
Liberal Leader Stephen McNeil said the government should simply restore funding to Talbot House, which he said has a proven positive impact, rather than forcing the board through the request for proposals process.
Progressive Conservative community services critic Keith Bain said he thinks addictions treatment professionals, not Community Services staff, should be the ones to judge the proposals.
Controversy around Talbot House also included a complaint from a former resident about former executive director Rev. Paul Abbass, who left the post in February.
Cape Breton Regional Police found no basis for laying charges.