Halifax-area addiction treatment home wants to serve more women leaving prison

·2 min read
The classroom at Marguerite Centre can accommodate 4 additional women. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC - image credit)
The classroom at Marguerite Centre can accommodate 4 additional women. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC - image credit)

A Halifax-area treatment centre for women with addiction that is operating at full capacity is trying to meet a growing demand among women leaving prison.

The Marguerite Centre in Timberlea is a 12-bed recovery house for women battling substance misuse or gambling addiction. Three of the beds are allocated to women who are on parole.

With increasing attention on mental health and addiction, particularly during the pandemic, the charity has felt the pressure to expand its services, said Lisa Mullin, executive director of the Marguerite Centre.

The facility is looking at helping offenders who are living at a halfway house by introducing day programming to them, she said.

The Marguerite Centre is a residential addiction treatment facility for women and has charitable status.
The Marguerite Centre is a residential addiction treatment facility for women and has charitable status.(Marguerite Centre)

"They're at the halfway house and are looking for services, so then they are required to go out into the community to find support for their addictions," said Mullin.

"Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. So Marguerite Centre would like to provide those services for those individuals."

She said it's an alternative to waiting up to eight months for a bed to open up at the centre. Not reaching out increases an offender's risk of relapse and recidivism, she said.

"The more supports we can provide to these women, the less likely it is that they are going to reoffend."

But the problem is getting them there. It's a 17-kilometre drive to the recovery home in suburban Halifax from the halfway house in west-end Halifax.

So a tender has been issued by the federal government to transport women to the facility during the day and back to the halfway house where they sleep.

The goal is to have four women from the halfway house take part in day programming starting in April.

At any given time, eight to 14 women are waiting up to eight months to get into the Marguerite Centre, which also works with women who are not completing a prison sentence.

The facility requires women to commit to staying between three to 12 months for treatment.

Mullin is the Marguerite Centre's executive director. She says taxi, ride-sharing or private transportation companies may want to bid on the tender.
Mullin is the Marguerite Centre's executive director. She says taxi, ride-sharing or private transportation companies may want to bid on the tender.(Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Mullin pointed out there are more recovery beds and more treatment programming available to men trying to beat addiction.

After staring at the possibility of shutting down five years ago and advocating for funding parity, the treatment centre is now fighting to fill the gap in services.

For staff whose hands are tied working at a facility with a finite number of beds that are always full, Mullin said providing day programming to women on parole is better than nothing.

"There are very few [supports] available to all women of Nova Scotia — not just people who are coming out of jail — so this is very much needed," she said.

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