Chair confident Talbot House will reopen

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The Cape Breton Post

Published on June 12, 2012

By Julie Collins – Cape Breton Post

Steve Wadden – Cape Breton Post

Talbot House was the scene of a press conference held by its board members on Tuesday. The media event followed a meeting between Talbot House board members and Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse in Sydney.


FRENCHVALE — The chair of Talbot House described the outcome of a meeting with the provincial community services minister as “hopeful and positive.”

Dr. John Gainer was quick to give credit to the board for its integrity and commitment to the causes of Talbot House.

Gainer and the board met with Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse, Tuesday in Sydney.

Talbot House closed in March amid the fallout from a Community Services report that raised a number of concerns about operations at the residential treatment centre for men with addictions.

“The board has always accepted that it has not been in full compliance of all of the Department of Community Service standards,” Gainer said. “We will meet with the department to clarify how that might be realized over the course of the next several months. The minister has also committed to review the report in detail and receive the board’s response to the report.”

Gainer said the expectation is that Talbot House will be offering recovery services and have its funding restored.

“We will have that discussion, on the conditions under which the funding will be restored. As soon as that funding is restored and those conditions met, then we will reopen the doors.”

Gainer said the reopening of Talbot House is dependent on the board doing the work it needs to do to establish the conditions to reopen in terms of assuring the Department of Community Services that it could meet standards.

“Once funding is re-established and we sort out operational and staffing issues, we would then open up Talbot House for admissions. One of the  issues that will be discussed are staffing issues and the conditions under which Father Abbass would have a role.”

Rev. Paul Abbass will resume full-time duties in five parishes in the Diocese of Antigonish on Oct. 5 after police dropped an investigation into his conduct as director of Talbot House.

Abbass was suspended from his duties in the diocese after someone from Talbot House complained to police in February.

But investigators said in April they found no evidence that would justify continuing their investigation.

Referring to the organizational review, Gainer said it is clear there were disagreements and controversy with respect to that report.

Gainer said the report has been published and the board’s response has been made widely available, adding that there is a list of issues that require clarification.

“There were some factual errors, there were some issues of interpretation. The minister has committed to review these issues and make appropriate comments and appropriate revisions, but more importantly, that she will use this information to inform subsequent decisions.”

Gainer said the minister has provided vision and a very hopeful outlook for Talbot House.

“She’s committed to restore addiction recovery services in Cape Breton. Her tone, her intent was extraordinarily positive.”

He added that the board had a very candid discussion with the minister on a history he described as difficult and complicated over the last eight months.

The department had announced on June 6  it was putting out a request for proposals for a new facility, with support from the Department of Health and Wellness.

“She has announced to the board today that they will suspend the (request for proposals). The board considers this an incredible show of faith and the beginning of re-establishing a trusting and working relationship between the board of  Talbot House and the Department of Community Services. This is an extraordinarily positive step.”

With the suspension of a formal offering of a request for proposals, the board and the minister have agreed to meet on a regular basis to review the content of the organizational review.

Gainer said the minister is in full agreement on the urgency of re-establishing a recovery service in Cape Breton.

“She  is taking a lead on this. It was incredibly important to have this face-to-face with her today,” Gainer said. “There is a sense of shared urgency and I expect this is going to move quite rapidly to the next decision.”

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