A Tees-area alcohol and drug abuse treatment centre that is undergoing a major renovation was given five-year operating approval by Lacombe County’s municipal planning commission.
Serenity Ranch has room to treat up to 40 people at a facility on a former jail site just north of Tees. The facility offers a 42-day addiction recovery program and employs 16 staff.
Owner Jim Gray said the centre, which he has owned for the past five years, is undergoing a $400,000 renovation.
The former Juniper Lodge hotel, which sat on the west side of Hwy 2 near Wolf Creek Golf Resort about eight km north of Lacombe, was moved to Serenity Ranch in June. The building was divided into two structures and will serve as lodgings for clients.
An existing kitchen facility is also being expanded and upgraded as part of the renovation project. About 15 mobile homes that previously served as client quarters are to be moved off the site as a condition of the approval.
County Councillor Brenda Knight asked Gray if he could meet the May 1, 2012 deadline to remove all the structures, noting residents had voiced concerns about them to her.
“They will need reassuring in that regard,” said Knight, who visited the facility and gave it a good review.
Gray said he hoped to be in the new building by December, at which point there will be no need for the mobile homes.
Serenity Ranch was at the centre of a fatality inquiry last year after a 17-year-old Red Deer boy died a day after drinking anti-freeze during an April 2007 stay at the facility.
An inquiry report released in October said a night-shift attendant was poorly trained. The report recommended new policies and procedures for the centre and called on the Alberta government to regulate and set minimum standards for addiction treatment centres.
Gray said most of the recommendations had already been adopted by the centre before the report came out. Since March, the facility has been accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Rehabilitation Facilities.
County Reeve Ken Wigmore praised the facility, saying he knew of people who had gone through the program and had “nothing but positive comments.”
Serenity Ranch gets no government funding. Clients pay $10,920 for the six-week, live-in program.
Gray said the success rate for recovering addicts is 65 per cent, but he is working to boost that. Among the new innovations is the use of iPads, which are handed out to each client and are loaded with program materials. The iPad also keeps a running count of how long its holder has been sober.
Through initiatives like that he hopes to boost the program’s success rate to 85 per cent.
Among conditions the commission put on approval is that the facility not provide detoxification treatment. A new application would be required to offer that kind of treatment, which requires on-site medical staff.
The facility must also establish a community liaison committee to address any concerns from area residents.