by Owen Munro, Abbotsford News
You can hear the applause booming into Milt Walker’s office across the hall. Friends and family pack the front auditorium at Kinghaven Treatment Centre every Wednesday, many overcome with emotion. It’s graduation day.
An average of three or four men graduate from the treatment centre every week. Some will reunite with their families and others will move across the road to the George Schmidt Centre, the second-stage housing facility, according to Walker, Kinghaven’s executive director.
A combination of a lack of resources for addicts and the mentally ill and the uniqueness of Kinghaven makes the 62-bed facility an important asset in Abbotsford. While the goal is the same for every individual, Walker’s pride in knowing how Kinghaven has helped many men reshape their own narratives in life is challenged by the fact that the spots opened are filled just as quickly.
“Our whole focus is on changing lives, one day at a time basically,” he said. “We offer multiple programs to clients that they’ve never had before.”
After undergoing major renovations, Kinghaven – located on King Road – reopened in May 2015 with an extra $1 million in funding from the provincial government to run a comprehensive pre-employment program. The major aim of the project was to integrate resources such as WorkBC, the Centre for Disabilities and Correctional Service Canada to connect men with potential jobs or skilled training programs.
The program is one of the only of its kind in the country. It helps men reintegrate as contributing members of society, but Walker is wary of what may happen to the program in 2018.
“We have a lot of guys who leave here getting jobs,” Walker said. “The unfortunate thing about it is our funding for the pilot is almost up.”
That funding will run out in 2018, and Walker (in photo at left) hopes that the provincial government at that time will commit to the project after seeing the merits of the model they have developed. He has outlined some of the program’s great success stories to illustrate the difference the program makes.
One example describes a client with an extensive history of incarceration while also being diagnosed with PTSD, anxiety and depression. He was able to submit an application to take a three-week crane operator training program, receiving a $29,000 grant. He now works as an operator for a lumber company, making $28 an hour. And although it may not be as easy as it sounds, it has shown Walker there’s great potential if more funding is secured.
“We need to have that program become a permanent part of the facility, because that’s what so essential around here,” he said. “If the community at large is interested in these men getting really into recovery, it’s when they get a job and when they unite with their families.”
Abbotsford South MLA Darryl Plecas was a main component in helping secure the funding in 2015, but says it may be a premature to look at future funding now.
“Just as I suspected when we gave them the money, is it’s been a spectacular success,” Plecas said. “The question about what happens in 2018 is a bit premature now because the whole reason was that it was three-year pilot, so we would be jumping the gun.”
Plecas knows there is still a lot of work to do in treating addiction, but says the 10-week program at Kinghaven is a different dynamic than a 30- or 60-day program, and could end up yielding better results.
“Historically, programs have been too short and they don’t do all that they can do,” Plecas said. “Now what we’re seeing is programs and funding which enables them to take a longer view.
“It’s not just, ‘You’re in and out of here in 30 or 60 days.’ For most people, it needs to be more than that and it needs to be assisting them with life skills to give them a bonafide start.”
Walker hopes more of that funding becomes available to the program in the future, so a full-time pre-employment program for the women at Peardonville House can be established. Staff from Kinghaven are only able to meet with women periodically.
Peardonville House is unique in itself because it allows women to bring underaged children with them, one of the only facilities to offer that in Canada.
Detox remains elusive to many in Abbotsford and other communities across B.C., as wait lists often go from two to six weeks, depending on such factors as the city and the number of beds. Up to 80 per cent of Kinghaven’s clients at any one time can be on social assistance, and the subsidized costs means openings are few and far between despite costing only $30 per day.
After a record-setting year for deaths due to illicit drug overdoses, Walker thinks the provincial government would do well to offer the same feeling of hope he hears every Wednesday morning.
Visit kinghaven.ca for more.