Talbot House report released

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Board didn’t prepare and approve annual budgets, according to Department of Community Services

The Cape Breton Post

Published on April 16, 2012

Chris Shannon

SYDNEY — A confidential report on Talbot House operations released Monday by the Department of Community Services described its board of directors as having little control over finances and it lacked written policies at the addiction recovery centre.

Most striking of the allegations launched against the board is its failure to prepare and approve operating budgets on an annual basis, and the fact the board hasn’t held an annual general meeting in 13 years.

The organizational review was ordered by the Department of Community Services after it received a complaint from the Department of Health concerning Talbot House executive director Rev. Paul Abbass’s conduct.

The report also indicated a poor working relationship between Talbot House, located in Frenchvale, and stakeholders such as Addiction Services, Cape Breton Regional Hospital detox and the Strait Richmond detox units.

Eight agencies received complaints from former residents of Talbot House concerning Abbass, some as recently as last year.

“Although stakeholders indicated that they had encouraged these clients to come forward and make a formal complaint, it appears that no complaints were made to the TH (Talbot House) board,” the report reads.

“Stakeholders who received complaints from residents felt compelled to keep the information confidential given their therapeutic relationship with clients. However, they passed these complaints along to their managers. Two managers advised their respective directors of the complaints.”

The report doesn’t name specific organizations, but it noted referrals to Talbot House from some agencies stopped — a direct result of the complaints against Abbass.

Abbass was relieved of his duties in February, and the remaining 11 residents at Talbot House were moved to another recovery facility or found their own accommodations in early March.

In an email Monday, Abbass told the Cape Breton Post that at this point he’ll leave the Talbot House board of directors to speak on the matter.

“I know you will understand that this has been a difficult period, and for that reason I am taking time for myself,” he said.

“I am not giving interviews, because to give one means many more, and I am not sure that I am up to that at this time.”

The Cape Breton Regional Police announced on Friday it wouldn’t proceed with a criminal investigation based on the allegations laid against Abbass.

Diocese of Antigonish spokesman Rev. Donald MacGillivray said Abbass can resume his church duties when he’s ready.

The service agreement the province had with Talbot House was not renewed April 1. The government provided 90 per cent of its annual budget, which last year represented $420,000.

Talbot House board chair Dr. John Gainer said he fully expected Community Services to release the report based on Freedom of Information requests by the media.

Gainer said the board submitted the province its response to the report by fax Monday, although it wasn’t clear when the board would make it public.

“If this is going to be now in the public sphere, we also want all the information to be out there,” he said.

The board of directors will need to meet first before deciding when to release its response, Gainer added.

On Sunday, he called the report “flawed” in its procedure and analysis, noting there were “sufficient” errors to undermine its findings, without going into specifics.

A three-page list of “suggestions” to improve the management of Talbot House included training sessions for the board of directors, which must include financial planning and budget management, and the development of a plan to improve relations with addiction recovery agencies.

The board of Talbot House must also develop policies outlining “the appropriate relationship between staff, residents, and volunteers and residents,” the report said.

Community Services will be seeking proposals to establish an addiction treatment facility in place of Talbot House, and Gainer said the board already has permission from the province to submit a plan, whether it be at the current Frenchvale site or at another location.


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