A Calgary organization with a long history of helping youth with addiction, abuse and mental illness will open a 10-bed addictions treatment centre for young men at Shunda Creek near Nordegg some time in July.
In May, Enviros Association received $1.4 million from Alberta Health and Wellness and Alberta Justice to operate the treatment facility for men age 18 to 24 for 2009-10 at a former work camp for young offenders that closed last September.
In addition to group treatment, clients will take part in outdoor activities like day hikes, paddling, mountain biking and rock climbing to develop confidence and independence.
For three and a half years, Enviros has run a similar treatment centre northwest of Cochrane for youth, age 13 to 18.
Enviros manager Carolyn Godfrey said even though the programs are voluntary, rural locations are better because it takes longer for clients to arrange a ride home if they want to give up.
“That time period affords us the opportunity to work with that client to reconsider,” Godfrey said.
Albertans can attend the three-month program at Shunda Creek free of charge. Similar programs operate at Poundmakers Lodge in St. Albert, which has 22 beds for young men and women, and Aventa Addiction Treatment in Calgary, which has eight beds for women.
Jenine Safioles, provincial co-ordinator for Safe Communities, young adults initiatives at Alberta Health Services, said all the beds are accessed by getting an assessment from an AHS addictions counsellor, who determines the best treatment option.
She didn’t know how long people currently wait to access beds.
Young men facing criminal charges may also choose the program if a court-ordered assessment deems it appropriate.
But it’s still a voluntary program, Godfrey said.
“We work with people who want to be there. Having it be voluntary, the change that’s created in them is far more sustainable.”
She said because of the “culture” it creates, Enviros will not accept a large number of clients going through the court system at the same time for the safety of clients, staff and the community.
Nordegg is the closest village and Rocky Mountain House is the nearest town.
Fifteen full-time employees, mostly from the Rocky, have been hired to run the program.
Renovations are underway to upgrade the former work camp, still owned by Alberta Infrastructure, to make it more comfortable and less institutional.
Godfrey said it is likely that clients will also get involved in the area by doing volunteer activities.
Clearwater County manager Ron Leaf said the county had a very positive experience with the young offenders who assisted in community beautification, like trail clearing.
“If we had that type of relationship in the future, that would be an asset to Clearwater,” Leaf said.
A public information session about the Shunda Creek facility and a grand opening will be held, but no dates have been set.