Fort San, Sask. nixes proposed treatment centre in 3-0 vote

·3 min read

The Resort Village of Fort San has voted against allowing a proposed addictions treatment centre in the community, for now.

Mayor Steven Helfrick abstained from voting and councillor Don Williams resigned his post last week, leaving the three remaining councillors to vote on Tuesday evening.

Councillors Valerie Hamilton, John Naumetz and Brad Redman all voted against a proposal to convert owner James Archer’s building into a replacement site for Pine Lodge Treatment Centre, which was in Indian Head but burned down in a Dec. 24 fire.

The resolution presented to council stated, “The council agrees that a substance abuse treatment centre falls within the definition of a residential care facility as set out in the Resort Village of Fort San zoning bylaw.”

Archer said he's exploring his options about how to proceed. He’ll either apply to council for a zoning bylaw amendment or seek an appeal through the provincial Development Appeals Board. He said he hasn’t decided on an option.

Pine Lodge hosted 43 beds for treating people with substance addictions.

Helfrick said he chose to abstain, because “it was going to be carried whether I voted or not. So I just declined to vote.

“That doesn't mean I didn't support it. In fact, I am the only supporter on our council, in my view, of the acceptance of the zoning definition.”

Archer’s building in Fort San is the former site of the Prairie Christian Training Centre, operated by the United Church.

Peter Nokonechny is a former client of Pine Lodge. He’s now close to nine years sober from alcohol.

“I am disappointed by the decision but not surprised,” he said in a statement sent to the Leader-Post. “Stigma is a difficult thing to overcome. This puts a lot of pressure on Pine Lodge to find a new home coming out of the pandemic. I pray they find a way forward. Lives literally depend on it.”

Helfrick believes the proposed treatment centre does meet Fort San’s bylaw definition of a residential care facility in two ways: “The residential care portion of it. (And) the educational-type facility,” based on what he learned about Pine Lodge’s past work.

“Part of it is through counselling, part of it is through education, part of it is through life skills to deal with everyday situations. So in my view that's an educational-type facility,” the mayor said.

Fort San’s three councillors and Williams did not respond to emailed requests for comment.

Lisa Klatt, a former Pine Lodge client and current counsellor there, is trying to do what she can with her clients by phone, including those on a waiting list to get into Pine Lodge.

She said any added delay to entering treatment is seldom helpful. “They don't have the hope and they get almost defeated … ‘well, I’ve been waiting months for this and nothing’s changing.’”

Saskatchewan’s substance use crisis continues: Estevan’s recently opened treatment centre at St. Joesph’s Hospital has a wait list of 156 people. The centre has 30 beds.

— with files from Heather Polischuk, Regina Leader-Post

Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post