N.S. review finds many deficiencies at Talbot House

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The Halifax Chronicle Herald

April 16, 2012 – 7:09pm

By DAVID JACKSON Provincial Reporter 

The Nova Scotia government would look at funding a Cape Breton addictions recovery centre again if its board, executive director and program shape up, says the Community Services minister.

The department released a review of Talbot House, located in Frenchvale, on Monday, and it contains a list of shortcomings.

They included 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 listed several areas where the facility didn’t comply with provincial standards for recovery houses.

Community Services Minister Denise Peterson-Rafuse said officials were concerned about the relationship between the board and the executive director, and the centre’s operations.

“It was more or less in the co-ordination of services and, you know, the knowledge at the board level,” Peterson-Rafuse said. “I think that’s what was being identified, to make sure … that everybody was on the same page, and it didn’t seem to be that.”

The report said the review was sparked by a complaint a former resident made to the Health and Wellness Department in 2011. Peterson-Rafuse said the complaint wasn’t related to vague abuse allegations against the executive director, Rev. Paul Abbass.

“(It was) about the programming,” the minister said.

Cape Breton Regional Police said last week that it concluded its investigation into the allegations against Abbass because there was nothing to pursue.

The board received a copy of the department’s report on April 4. Board chairman John Gainer told The Chronicle Herald on Sunday that the review was imbalanced, with “too many factual errors and misrepresentations.”

Gainer could not be reached for comment Monday.

The department’s report says the board removed Abbass as executive director on Feb. 2, pending the department’s review and a board investigation. Gainer said Sunday the board didn’t do an investigation because the department wouldn’t disclose the nature of the complaint.

The report says the department on Feb. 15 offered extra money for staffing at Talbot House so residents wouldn’t be disrupted, but the board turned down the offer. The board told the department on March 6 that it would discharge all residents.

The 17-bed facility had received $420,000 from the Community Services Department last year. The minister said it’s possible the funding could be restored to Talbot House, which opened in 1959 to provide services for men.

“We’d like to sit down and talk to them to see if they’ll be able to fulfill the requirements that we’re asking from that review, and then we can go forward from there,” Peterson-Rafuse said.

Liberal community services critic Kelly Regan said the matter needs a full airing before an emergency meeting of the legislature’s community services committee.

“We need to find out exactly what happened,” Regan said.

Keith Bain, the Progressive Conservative community services critic, said the department should have shared more information with the Talbout House board.

(djackson@herald.ca)

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