July 3, 2020

Winnipeg
27° C, Partly cloudy

Full Forecast

Winnipeg Free Press

ABOVE THE FOLD

Subscribe

Private addiction-recovery centre lays off a quarter of its staff

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 25/9/2019 (282 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

A quarter of the staff at a private addiction and mental health recovery centre in Gimli has been laid off to keep operations afloat due to dropping demand for its costly detox and rehabilitation services.

On Monday, Aurora Treatment and Recovery Centre released 23 staff members across all departments, ranging from maintenance to counselling. About 60 per cent of the positions were full-time.

"These are never easy decisions, but they are decisions that are necessary to take for a long-term health of the organization," founder and chairman Paul Melnuk told the Free Press.

At full capacity, the 70-bed facility requires about 100 staff members to conduct daily operations. It was at capacity in February, Melnuk said, but the past six months have slowed down. There have been between 30 to 35 patients at the facility in recent months, he said.

Meanwhile, the wait to access the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba's community-based services in Gimli is 28 days.

90-day stay costs $40,000

The private Gimli recovery centre offers immediate detox programming, as well as treatment programming between 30 to 90 days long. The 30-day option, which includes detox and continuing care, costs close to $20,000 while a 90-day stay is upwards of $40,000.

It is one of only a handful of private rehabilitation facilities for addicts in the province. The province does not cover private facility costs, so any rehabilitation coverage depends on a patient’s insurance.

The layoffs come three months after the centre closed Whispering Pines, its small Teulon, Man.-based addiction treatment centre. Its Gimli location, which opened in 2015, and Winnipeg counselling services are still up and running.

“The fact that we could take people in without any wait time was really a relief for a lot of people who were in a really desperate situation." — Kathleen Helgason, Whispering Pines counsellor

Earlier this year, Melnuk told media outlets the centre’s decision to shutter Whispering Pines was due to its size and scope being too small to provide adequate care.

A counsellor who worked at Whispering Pines for nearly a decade (Aurora Treatment and Recovery Centre bought it in 2018), Kathleen Helgason said the Teulon facility’s staff were saddened when it closed because it was a unique option for patients.

"The fact that we could take people in without any wait time was really a relief for a lot of people who were in a really desperate situation," Helgason said.

She added there is a need for more treatment options, not less. "But we were told we were not profitable enough to remain open."

Wait for public treatment as long as 150 days

The wait for public addiction treatment services in the province can be weeks, if not months. In a statement, AFM spokeswoman Denisa Gavan-Koop said wait times for in-house treatment in Manitoba can range between 26 to 150 days. 

At a time when Manitoba is experiencing a meth crisis and fatal opioid overdose counts continue to rise across the country, advocates point to solutions including subsidies for private care and a need for more public beds — especially long-term ones.

"It’s really unfortunate [Aurora] has these empty beds and people need this service and they can’t access it," said Rebecca Rummery with Overdose Awareness Manitoba. "Not everyone can afford that price tag."

“It’s really unfortunate [Aurora] has these empty beds and people need this service and they can’t access it." — Rebecca Rummery, Overdose Awareness Manitoba

Rummery’s boyfriend died from an overdose in 2018 while he was on the waitlist for public services. AFM left him a message the day he was admitted to the hospital after experiencing what would be deemed a fatal overdose, she said.

Long wait times have left some families scrambling to find care in other provinces where there is a greater selection of private care options that charge lower prices than Manitoba facilities such as Aurora Treatment and Recovery Centre, Rummery said.

"The demand right now is for publicly funded beds to address the drug crisis," said Marion Willis, the founder of Morberg House, a long-term treatment facility and transitional house for men experiencing addiction in St. Boniface.

Willis said there is a real need for long-term beds as it takes 120 days to stabilize a meth addict.

No one can afford a private stay under 30 days, she said, let alone one longer than that. And while she noted addicts come from all walks of life, Willis said they often seek out treatment at their lowest point, when they do not have funds for care.

maggie.macintosh@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh
Reporter

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

Read full biography

Your support has enabled us to provide free access to stories about COVID-19 because we believe everyone deserves trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

Our readership has contributed additional funding to give Free Press online subscriptions to those that can’t afford one in these extraordinary times — giving new readers the opportunity to see beyond the headlines and connect with other stories about their community.

To those who have made donations, thank you.

To those able to give and share our journalism with others, please Pay it Forward.

The Free Press has shared COVID-19 stories free of charge because we believe everyone deserves access to trusted and critical information during the pandemic.

While we stand by this decision, it has undoubtedly affected our bottom line.

After nearly 150 years of reporting on our city, we don’t want to stop any time soon. With your support, we’ll be able to forge ahead with our journalistic mission.

If you believe in an independent, transparent, and democratic press, please consider subscribing today.

We understand that some readers cannot afford a subscription during these difficult times and invite them to apply for a free digital subscription through our Pay it Forward program.

History

Updated on Wednesday, September 25, 2019 at 6:36 PM CDT: Fixes formatting of outtakes.

The Free Press will close this commenting platform at noon on July 14.

We want to thank those who have shared their views over the years as part of this reader engagement initiative.

In the coming weeks, the Free Press will announce new opportunities for readers to share their thoughts and to engage with our staff and each other.

You can comment on most stories on The Winnipeg Free Press website. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press print or digital subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to The Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

By submitting your comment, you agree to abide by our Community Standards and Moderation Policy. These guidelines were revised effective February 27, 2019. Have a question about our comment forum? Check our frequently asked questions.