News » Whistler

Pemberton-Mount Currie treatment centre hits snag



Plans for a drug and alcohol treatment centre near Pemberton and Mount Currie have hit a number of snags, among them the idea that it is economically unfeasible at this time.

The treatment centre has its genesis in Winds of Change: A Healing Vision, a 2004 report by the Pemberton/Mount Currie Drug and Alcohol Task Force that came after the death of Ross Leo, a 15-year-old Mount Currie resident, in an alcohol-fuelled beating in Pemberton.

Since then the report has resulted in the formation of the Winds of Change (WOC) committee, a joint effort by the Village of Pemberton (VOP) and the Mount Currie band of the Lil’wat nation. The committee is investigating the possibility of establishing a drug and alcohol treatment centre in the area, but despite a stated need for the centre it has yet to come to fruition.

One of the problems, based on a recent feasibility study initiated by the Winds of Change committee, is a lack of clarity as to where funding would come from, according to Maxine Bruce, a Mount Currie band councilor who holds the health and wellness portfolio.

She told Pique that the Mount Currie band gets funding from the federal ministry of Indian and Northern Affairs, as well as Health Canada, while the VOP receives funding from a provincial source.

This, Bruce said, makes it difficult to see how funding could come to a centre that would serve both the First Nations and non-First Nations populations in the Pemberton and Mount Currie areas, as the centre is expected to serve both.

“It needed to be looked into further because it wasn’t only a First Nations and Inuit drug and alcohol treatment centre,” she said. “We needed to find a solution for both of our communities, we needed to apply some real dollar numbers.”

The funding, however, isn’t the only issue affecting plans for a centre. There are also issues around where the centre would be situated, and whether enough staff could be found to operate the facility.

“I think we’re experiencing limitations,” Bruce said. “As simple as counseling, through social services and stuff like that, it’s been a challenge.

”To staff such a facility could be challenging for communities.”

When asked what kind of a need there is for such a centre in the area, Bruce said it depends on one’s perspective.

A former alcoholic who’s been sober for about 19 years, she said there are vast distances between the Mount Currie area and the closest treatment centres.

“For myself, I’ve been on my healing path for about 19 years now,” she said. “I would not want to leave home to look into healing because I do have a daughter.

“It becomes larger amounts of money to get me to an alcohol and drug treatment centre in Vernon, or in Williams Lake area, or there’s one on Vancouver Island.”

The Winds of Change committee met in Pemberton on June 26. Those present seemed very confident that there was a need for a treatment centre in the valley.

“There’s nowhere to go, there’s no recovery house, there’s no youth rec centre,” said Cedric Jones, alcohol and drug counselor for the Mount Currie band, at the meeting. “When people are walking in the community, where are you going? I don’t know, and usually what ends up coming up, you want to get drunk? You want to get high?”

In addition to a treatment centre, Jones said there should also be a recovery centre for people before they enter treatment.

“It takes about two to three months to get into a treatment centre,” he said. “Some people are getting pre-treatment counseling in that two to three months, and that’s a long time.

“We need another branch that reaches from Squamish, to Pemberton, Mount Currie where people can just get some of that.”

For now, more work needs to be done to get the centre started. The WOC is currently looking to a wellness centre that will soon be established in the Paradise Valley area for inspiration as to how it can establish its own centre, according to Bruce.

“I think the discussions are at that point, just talking about it,” she said.

“We’re going to look at a number of areas, but we need to expand on what we’re looking at.”