The council of Fort San, Sask., a resort village 70 km northeast of Regina, has voted no on letting Pine Lodge Treatment Centre relocate after the original site was damaged in a fire in December.
The addictions recovery centre, which offers a 28-day inpatient program funded by the province, was in the community of Indian Head, about 30 km to the south.
Residents check in voluntarily after detox.
Staff of the centre had located the vacant Calling Lakes Centre in Fort San, used for years as the Prairie Christian Training Centre, and said it was the only suitable new space in the area where they could relocate.
Lisa Klatt was a client at Pine Lodge and worked there after she got sober. She said Pine Lodge saved her life.
"I laughed for the first time — like a real belly laugh — when I was a client there," she said.
She said it's the centre's ongoing closure is devastating, and that it's possible people will die waiting for it to open again.
"This is bigger than the whole Pine Lodge relocation; it's a whole health-care system. But when somebody says, 'I want help,' they should get it now," Klatt said.
"Currently, they have to wait to get into detox and then they have a wait to get into treatment. So, it's hard to keep them motivated when they don't have an intake date for Pine Lodge."
Klatt spoke at the meeting Tuesday. There was a lot of fear in the community about the impact of having this type of facility in Fort San, she said. Klatt said those conceptions are not based in reality. "
"If you've never been around recovery and addicts and alcoholics and seen them when they're sober trying to get help, you think of that negative picture that's in the news and in the movies, right?
"Those who actually make it to treatment ... they want to be there because they fought with everything they have to get into treatment, and so they don't pose a threat to the community."
Mayor says appeal possible
Fort San's mayor, Steve Helfrick, said delegations arguing for and against were both strong.
Council decided 3-0, with Helfrick abstaining, that the centre did not fit the definition of Residential Care Facility as defined in the village's zoning bylaw.
"There were some people that were heartbroken; there were some people that were overjoyed. But nevertheless, that's not the end of the story," he said.
There are a couple of levels of appeal at the village level that can happen on the decision.
Helfrick said the people against the centre moving to the community talked about property devaluation and the original community plan. They also noted there is another treatment centre in Fort San, called Leading Thunderbird Lodge.
The lodge is funded by the federal government. According to their website, the lodge "provides a 16-week culturally based residential treatment program for First Nations and Inuit male youth from across Canada who are between 12-17 years."
Helfrick said he was disappointed "on both sides," because the developer missed permits and other required technical aspects. But he's also worried about the people waiting for treatment.
The executive director of Pine Lodge, Foster Monson, said he's not sure what they will do next. They are waiting on some estimates from SGI about what it would cost to fix the old building.
"It's very disappointing. It's not so much disappointing for Pine Lodge as it is for the people out there who need treatment, who have been waiting for treatment for some time and will continue to wait for treatment for even a longer amount of time," he said.
"Some of these people will go back using. Some will probably even die."