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U-Turn head shocked at Victoria’s decision to have public vote on plan to set up recovery, transitional house

U-Turn Drop-in Centre executive director Jeff Bourne addresses the audience at a public meeting last year about the group’s proposal to set up a transition house for recovering addicts.
U-Turn Drop-in Centre executive director Jeff Bourne addresses the audience at a public meeting last year about the group’s proposal to set up a transition house for recovering addicts.

The numbers paint a stark picture of a worsening opioid crisis in Canada — a 19 per cent increase in opioid-related hospitalizations in the last two years.

On the same day the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) released the report, the head of a busy addiction treatment centre in this province says he’s shocked that a nearby town council is not stepping up to help.

Jeff Bourne, executive director of U-Turn Drop-In Centre in Carbonear, said the group had presented a business plan to set up a transition house for recovering addicts in Victoria.

The centre — which would be located in a building that was donated to them by the owners — would house recovering addicts who have already been through the initial treatment programs and are looking to reintegrate into society.

“It would give them the extra support they need getting their lives back on track,” Bourne said.

A notice had been mailed to the town’s 1,600 residents to inform them of the plan and to give them the opportunity to respond.

But Bourne was shocked when, during a Victoria town council meeting Tuesday night, councillors instead decided to have the residents decide by special ballot — despite only six people expressing written concerns about it.

“I’m speechless. I blown away with their process,” he said. “That doesn’t sit well with me. Only six people had concerns, so I don’t think a special ballot is the appropriate route to follow.”

Bourne said councillors told him that he has to go out in the community to campaign for the plan at the same time candidates are campaigning for the municipal election.

“We’re working, giving our guts to put other resources in place to help people. This is a provincial and national crisis we’re dealing with. For council to use this as a municipal platform, it doesn’t sit right with me,” said Bourne, a resident of Victoria, adding that aftercare is a key component in dealing with the opioid crisis.

“If I wanted to go on the campaign trail, I would’ve run for council.”

Bourne said he is using social media to get the word out about the importance of the transition house.

“It’s that word — addictions — that concerns people, but people have to realize that addictions affects everyone. The disease of addictions is going to come knocking on everybody’s door and people are going to wish they had a place for them to go,” he said.

“But I believe the community will support this. The people of Victoria are loving, kind, caring people who are always there to help others. I’m confident they will do the proper thing and help give people a second chance.”

Meanwhile, Bourne is not surprised at CIHI’s newly released report, which includes statistics that show an average of 11.3 people per 100,000 were hospitalized due to opioid poisoning. In fact, he thought the number would be higher.

He said the problem is “overwhelming,” and while the government recognizes it’s a major problem, more needs to be done to combat it.

“It’s a slow process,” he said. “There’s always more improvement needed.”

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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