MR. CHAIRMAN: I would like to call the committee to order and thank our members and our witness for coming this morning. What we will do is go around and have each member introduce themselves and have the witness introduce herself for the record.
[The committee members introduced themselves.]
MS. JOANNE BERNARD: I am Joanne Bernard. I do apologize, I am not used to coming downtown at this hour of the morning and the Bedford Highway did me in. I apologize for that.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Now we will go right into your presentation.
MS. BERNARD: I am the Coordinator of the Women's Addiction Abuse Committee, which is a committee that was put together in January 2000. It was composed of organizations from the community that assist women in crisis. We had Coverdale, we had Alice Housing, we had representatives from Probation and Correctional Services, we had representatives from Legal Aid, and we had representatives from Exodus House, which was a long-term residential facility during the 1990's that operated in Halifax with a three-bed facility, operated mostly by the Sisters of Notre Dame.
For years, in this province, women who have completed detoxification programs through Drug Dependency Services have had to face a tremendous gap of service when they come out of those programs. Where they go is usually back to where they came from. They complete a 28 day detoxification program, they come out and they have no place to resume their recovery. They often go back to the environment that is not conducive to the recovery they started in the program, or they struggle. They have no safe place to go and continue to work on the issues that might have been contributing to their drug use in the first place.
In the Province of Nova Scotia, there are five facilities for men, which do tremendous work and are a proven model of what happens when an individual is given a safe place to continue their recovery after they have gone through a detoxification program. For women, this gap in service has been an issue for the last 20 or 30 years in Halifax. In 1989, the mayor's Task Force on Drug Awareness had policing individuals come forward and say that a safe place for women to continue their recovery program had to be a priority.
In 1996, 1990, 1997, there were three documents that were published by individuals and academics using interviews from women who used the services of Adsum House, Bryony House and other organizations that helped women in crisis. Every one of those women said they needed a place to go to resume their recovery.
When they are in detoxification now, there are men and women in the programs. For many of these women, up to 17 out of 20 in many studies, they have had histories of sexual abuse in their childhood. Sitting in a group of men who are there for the same reasons they are, talking about sexual abuse, is just not going to happen. The issues that contribute to why they are abusing substances in the first place doesn't get addressed. It is well documented, the problems that women have had in the detoxification programs, in terms of having their voices heard.
What this Women's Addiction Abuse Committee did in the past year and a half was put in a funding proposal for a coordinator with the securing community partnerships initiatives, which is the federal program that addresses individuals who are homeless or at risk of being homeless. For many of these women, when they come out of detoxification programs, and I have spoken to many First Voice, they come out and they go back to the boyfriend who is doing crack in the living room or unsafe housing, and they go back to an environment they tried desperately to get out of, but the pull is just too strong for them to move on and to get on with their lives.
This committee coalesced and really worked hard for the past year and, in February, through a grant through HRDC, I was employed to put together a proposal to be submitted to the Steering Committee on Homelessness on April 24th for a long-term residential facility for 12 women struggling with addictions and in recovery. I am happy to say that was approved on April 24th, and it has been the practice that when the federal government comes into town with oodles of money and starts up a project and then leaves, the provincial government has been left holding the bag.
This time the provincial government decided to take the bag and they have come on board through the Departments of Health and Community Services to address this gap in service, because there was really no justification for not addressing this gap in service. It had gone on long enough and the numbers were there. We know that women are relapsing and the recidivist rate within detoxification programs is incredible. We had one woman who traced her stays from 1988 to 1997, 26 stays at a cost of over $60,000. We know that women
have been referred to out-of-province because this facility does not exist. We know that they go to Ontario; we know that they go to P.E.I. and we know that the government pays for that. We know that women are dying because they cannot get out of the trap of prostitution and drug abuse. We know that out of 265 who have gone through the Nova Institution in Truro, 255 of them have taken advantage of the counselling on drug abuse in that centre.
It costs $127 a day to keep a woman in jail in this province. Fiscally, it is irresponsible not to have this centre in place. Socially, it is also irresponsible. This Marguerite Centre, the name came from the founding member of the Sisters of Notre Dame, and she was, for all intents and purposes, one of Canada's first social workers in Quebec in the 1600's. She helped women and children that society would not help during that time. We have a board of directors which has incorporated into the Society for Women Healing from Addictions and Abuse, and we have a very full slate of directors from all walks of life, including First Voice, the Department of Health, retired corrections, retired drug dependency, former MPs, and lawyers. It is a very strong board and they are very committed to seeing this project to its completion.
The Marguerite Centre will be a long-term residential facility, like I said, for 12 women. It will employ a women's-centred approach to counselling, and it will look at the holistic view of why women abuse drugs. Not only will there be drug abuse counselling, there will be sexual abuse counselling, there will be parenting, there will be relaxation techniques, education, employment, just regular coping skills that these women have either never had or have lost through drug abuse. We have the donated services of the Women's Employment Outreach to come out and do employment counselling sessions with them. We have individuals from the Department of Justice willing to come out and talk to them about anger management. We have lawyers doing legal advocacy work for them pro bono. We have a reflexologist coming out and doing relaxation techniques.
For many of the women who will be utilizing this facility they will already have placed their children in voluntary care. So this facility will offer them a place for their kids to come and visit with them and, in this instance, the kids can see that mom is safe, she is working on her problems. Then, eventually, we would like to do overnights; eventually, when women feel they have recovered enough and have a positive life goal with objectives, they will go into our partner organization which is Alice Housing, for transitional housing, if they feel they need it.
One of the main focuses of this facility is to stop the generational cycle of substance abuse, income assistance, prostitution and violence. So if we can reunite families at the end of this recovery period, then that will help the next generation.
I am also the Director of the Board of Directors for Bryony House and I can tell you that the women that we see now were there during the 1980's as children. So we know there is a generational aspect of that. We want to help stop that through this centre. It costs the
province an amazing amount of money to keep children in voluntary care and it costs even more if these kids grow up angry and feeling neglected or if they are abused and they start the same system and same cycle that their mothers did 10, 15 years ago.
This is a really proactive interventionist facility for children and it is a recovery centre for women. They will have access to programming and education and employment. It will all look at a holistic view of why substance abuse is prevalent in their lives and it is complementary to the detoxification programs that are available now in the province.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you, Ms. Bernard. At this time we will open the floor up for questions and answers. We will start with the member for Cape Breton East, Mr. Wilson.
MR. DAVID WILSON: Welcome, Joanne, it is nice to see you again. I am glad to see you here. I want to thank the committee for, first of all, approving Joanne's visit here and going through some rescheduling and so on because of many things that have happened. I am very glad to see you here because it is a very worthwhile project that we are talking about here. Can you just give me, for starters, an exact update as of today where exactly we stand in terms of financing and how things are going?
MS. BERNARD: We met with Dr. David Rippey and Brian Wilbur of the Department of Health last Thursday. We have funding until March 31, 2003. That is going to be entirely paid through the federal government and there will be a fundraising component within that as well, as there is with most non-profits in this city. They have agreed, through the budget that I have proposed in collusion with Community Services, to pay a per diem which will be either through grant or through per diem rates. They haven't really decided that yet. We are in the process of having two individuals from the Capital District Health Board, myself, a member of my board and two individuals from the Department of Health to set up a working committee where we can link program outcomes with the expenditures that will be happening in terms of the Department of Health.
Housing Services, under the Department of Community Services, has been extraordinary in coming to the table with helping us with our shelter costs. I have had numerous meetings with Jim Graham with the Department of Community Services under Housing and he has been extraordinarily supportive in seeing that this project moves along.
I had a meeting on Monday with the assistant to the Deputy Minister in Community Services, Bob Fowler, and he was extraordinarily supportive of this initiative. He had heard about it. We went into the meeting asking for not new money from income assistance, but merely redirected money. So the majority of the women, if not all of them, who will be using this centre will already be on some sort of income assistance in their regular lives, and what we were asking for was that those funds be redirected to the shelter to help give us some sort of rental revenue. He absolutely agreed that that would be the place for that revenue to go.
So financially, we do have sustainable funding after 2003. We will employ a fundraiser who will help with writing grants. We have had tremendous feedback from various local and private funders who realize this is a gap in service, so we are quite excited about the private partnership component of this facility. As we speak now, I will be re-editing a few things in the proposal and it will go to Ottawa.
While we were working on the Department of Health Working Committee, I had invited Jeff Conrad, who is with HRDC, to come to the Health meeting because I wanted him to hear what I heard. I wanted him to be able to say, yes I heard enough commitment to send this to Claudette Bradshaw for her to read and hopefully sign, and he heard that. So that will be happening within the next few weeks, going to Ottawa. We are looking at a six week mirror. We would like to have this facility open in the fall; that is our goal.
MR. WILSON: Is that possible to do that and in terms of long term, are there any problem areas, in other words, for long-term funding and what is down the road?
MS. BERNARD: Well, speaking from my experiences with Bryony House, there is always a tenuous relationship between grant funding per diems and the non-profit sector and government; so it is always tenuous at best, so we hope not. We have a facility that will have outcomes within the next couple of years and they will prove that this works. So you can either pay now, this short-term expenditure, or you can pay for years to come in the long term in terms of these women, violence, whatever is associated with crime costs and their children, eventually, or you can basically put up now and help us have these women have positive lives so that they can go back to their communities and live responsibly within them.
MR. WILSON: That is it for now, Mr. Chairman. I just want to again congratulate Joanne and the Society because I know you have been working pretty hard. You must be pretty happy.
MS. BERNARD: We are ecstatic. I apologize there are no board members here today; they are all very busy individuals. I have had them at three meetings in the last six days, so I just said, don't worry about it, we are fine. That is why there is no one here. They are just "meetinged" out.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Samson.
MR. MICHEL SAMSON: Mr. Chairman, I also wanted to commend you, Joanne, for the wonderful presentation, and I am pleased that my colleague here, Dave Wilson, made the recommendation to have you in. Certainly it is an important issue, which I think impacts all of us throughout the province and yet, unfortunately, it is an issue that is not often discussed at length and certainly it has been a very educational presentation for me.
I am just curious. You indicated, as it currently exists, any women with addiction problems who attend detox programs are doing so in a mixed environment, with men. Is that correct throughout the province?
MS. BERNARD: That is correct throughout the province. There is a facility in Halifax called Matrix, which is a day program, where it is women only. We actually have the support of the counsellors of Matrix for this facility, but Crosbie Centre and the Nova Scotia Hospital, their classes are conducted in a mixed environment.
MR. SAMSON: Would Matrix be a voluntary centre? You are saying it is a day centre. I know if there is a court-imposed period in there, usually it will be the 28 day program. So are those just voluntary entrants or would there also be court-imposed entrants who would go to that facility?
MS. BERNARD: I am not positive on that because I am not familiar with whether or not they are court-imposed. I know that many of the women who go there do so of their own free will. The YWCA provides daycare for kids of these women while they are partaking in the programs. With the Marguerite Centre, this will not be a place for women to go who are imposed by the courts. There will be women who have come out of penal institutions who will be using Marguerite Centre and that is my next provincial department this afternoon at 1:00 p.m., the Department of Justice, because they do have a responsibility in this centre, as well. We don't see it as a place where it will be court-imposed to come to Marguerite Centre.
MR. SAMSON: So, basically, it would be the type of centre, as you suggested earlier, that would be the service after you have finished a 28 day program or an addiction program, this is the facility to assist you once you have completed that.
MS. BERNARD: Yes, and the referrals will come through individuals and through the community.
MR. SAMSON: So I guess the issue with detox and with the mixed classes remains an issue. I guess that is not being tackled at this point in time, but remains an outstanding issue. That is it for now. Congratulations and good work.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Maureen MacDonald.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, well, this is good news, indeed. As a former chair, as well, of Bryony House, I know that this is an issue that has been of concern to women who have worked with women for a long time in an obvious gap. I just want to say that it is an issue that has been hidden for so long because of the negative stereotypes that are associated with women who drink or are drug addicted or cross-addicted.
The focus has so often been on men and getting men back to work and maintaining their ability to be in the workforce. The whole idea of women with addictions hasn't been at the forefront of this sort of addictions movement, I guess you would say, in some ways, in the whole area of providing services.
So you and the other women who are doing this work - and men, as well, I understand - are to be commended for taking this on. I am pleased to see government being supportive. I guess my questions go back to some of the things that you have raised around funding. You have indicated that the province, which would be, at this stage, my main concern, is prepared to redirect social assistance dollars into the shelter, which is a good idea.
But what about women who have addictions who aren't eligible for social assistance? I am thinking here about women with addictions who are in receipt of Canada Pension disability or who are First Nations women off reserves or in fact women who are working, perhaps on a part-time basis and participating in the program, living in the residence, maybe working at a Tim Hortons for minimum wage, all of that kind of stuff. What arrangements are being made to provide financial assistance for their ability to participate in this program?
I know the per diem system very well and it is a nightmare. It generally shortchanges the shelter and it puts a pressure on shelters then to make sure that beds are occupied by people for whom there is money, rather than make sure beds are occupied by people who need the service.
MS. BERNARD: That is a good question, Maureen. No woman will ever be refused admission into the Marguerite Centre. It is long term so we are not going to have a tremendous turnover quickly unless women decide to leave there and they are not ready to face recovery. For women who are on income assistance, those funds will be redirected. For women who have the ability to pay, whether it be through other pension funds or through family, they will be asked to pay a small portion, just so we have some rental revenue. If there is no ability to pay, they are still admitted to this centre and we will redirect our fundraising to meet those needs. According to the women who ran Exodus House, 99 per cent of the women that used their centre for 9 or 10 years were on income assistance, but we would never, ever deny someone the opportunity for recovery based on their income situation at that time.
In answer to your question, we would have sort of like a reserve. There is fundraised money that will be coming into this, there are grants. Everything that women need in this shelter will be provided - from shelter to food to personal items - everything. There would never be someone that would not be eligible based on the fact that they are working. That is our goal as well. I hope that answers your question.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I understand what you are saying. I was also a founding member for Adsum House and we certainly went into the setting up of that - for
people who may not know, that is an emergency shelter for women and children. Initially, it was for women and with the closing of Collins House, which failed because of the per diem problem, Adsum House became a shelter for women and children. We went in with lots of enthusiasm and hope - which is important, I think - but, the reality that occurred in very short order was that we, in fact, had this financial pressure and it wasn't a problem to provide shelter to women who were on social assistance, but for women who weren't on social assistance, it became very problematic. The department would not budge with respect to providing any assistance around that and expected the shelter staff and board to fundraise, which brings me to my next question. What are the fundraising expectations? How much money will you have to generate privately to support the shelter?
MS. BERNARD: I know that with block funding, you can be a little more creative, but when you work out what the per diem will be from the Department of Community Services based on income assistance, it is $10 a day, so it is not going to make a whole lot of difference. All that Community Services is allowing us to have is $225 plus $180, so their magic number of $405, or $403, which is what they give women outside of the centre now, is not going to make a whole lot of difference at the end of the day.
The other thing, in terms of fundraising, we know that we are eligible for a considerable number of grants, both within Nova Scotia and across the country. We are in the process of working out a partnership with the Archdiocese of Halifax. We know that we will be part of the United Way, based on discussions with them. We have also had numerous interests in private funding opportunities including Olands, and actually in this facility we will be hiring a fundraiser to go out and raise the funds that are needed. As the chair of the fundraising committee for Bryony House, I can tell you we raised thousands and thousands of dollars privately each year and we still run short, but we know that can be done. We also know that in this age of fiscal restraint with governments that a fundraiser not hired in a non-profit isn't conducive to longevity in this area. So, the major houses in the area do have professional fundraisers that go out and raise funds and write grants for these houses.
In answer to your question of how much is going to be fundraised, we are looking at projected grants of around $50,000. The Department of Justice, federally, is looking at grants for us as well, and donations and fundraising probably in the area between $50,000 and $75,000 per year, which is quite realistic.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Just one final comment. That per diem of $10 a day, that is considerably lower than the per diems in any of the other shelters that I know of, by lots. That is very low. Thank you.
MS. BERNARD: Yes. I know.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Pye.
MR. JERRY PYE: Thank you, Joanne. Once again I want to thank you for coming. It is pleasing to hear that finally you have the opportunity to provide a shelter for women with addiction. I recall back in 1989 when the Freedom Foundation came before Dartmouth City Council, the municipality actually co-signed a mortgage in order to get the Freedom Foundation off the ground. At that time, women came before city council, as well, wanting to have a women's shelter particularly centred around alcoholism as an addiction. There was a centre located on Robie Street, which is still there today, called Alcare Place, and the Freedom Foundation on Brule Street, which is there for men, primarily only for men.
You didn't say where you are going to locate this shelter and that is of interest to me, where this shelter is going to be located. You did indicate that you are going to be talking to the Departments of Health and Community Services with respect to the per diem grants. Per diem rates, as you know, are negotiated every year and sometimes that becomes a difficulty when, in fact, the Department of Community Services finds itself in difficulty. I am hoping that you will make a long-range commitment to that as well; and from the Department of Health, hopefully you won't get per diem rates but you will get grants that are stabilized so that you can continue.
You say this will be a long-term facility for some 12 women, indicating that there is a serious need in the community and the neighbour because of the number of females with addiction problems. Is that fair to those individuals who may not be there? Because if I look at the association for Women's Residential Facilities or Amethyst Place - you know Carol Charlebois as well, and the people who run the association for Women's Residential Facilities, they are there for a long time, and can be there forever and a day until they feel that they are ready to leave. This does not allow an opportunity for those individuals out there who need the shelter now.
Just the other day I had a 42 year old women who lives in an apartment on Pinecrest Drive without any electricity, without any heat, and is looking for a place; who has had an addiction problem. For many years she has been in and out of the addiction centre. That is not fair. We have to address that kind of an issue.
The other concern I have is, have you approached the municipalities with respect to municipalities giving grants or contributions to your shelter as well? I would also like to know the kind of addiction problems you are now faced with and the priorities? Which are the most serious, addictions such as substance abuse; alcohol; gambling, do you see gambling addiction on the rise, and what effect that has on women and families? I am sure that you will be able to enlighten me on that.
I guess the project goes to 2003, and I know you have hired or said that you are going to engage the services of a private fundraiser. I want to say that I wish you good luck, but you and I both know that there is one hell of a number of people out there who are now fundraising in private organizations competing with the gambling operations in this area.
When I look at some of the private fundraising such as the selling of tickets, which won't be the sort of thing you will be into, you will be into corporate sponsorship and so on, but even at that level, trying to fundraise, organizations will hold themselves together and they can't compete.
I look at the percentages that have been lost in the last report from the Gaming Corporation, although this is not one area, but what it does do is if you attract from those corporate industries, then someone else is left behind. They have to go to that level of seeking funding and contributions and fundraising. It is a very serious issue out there from my point of view and from what I am watching taking place out there; it is a very serious issue of everyone going out there and seeking volunteerism and corporate sponsorship to the point whereby I don't know when that is going to be exhausted.
If you can enlighten me and talk to me around those issues that I have brought to your attention, particularly the priorities of substance abuse that you are going to be dealing with, the long-term issue, and the funding issues as well. I know that my colleagues have tapped on some of that, but I am not so sure that I am hearing the kind of thing that I want to hear.
MS. BERNARD: First of all, we have a facility in mind, a house for sale, and we are eligible for renovations under CMHC funding. All I can tell you is that this house will not be in the peninsula of Halifax, it will be somewhere outside of Halifax because of the problems that we see with Adsum and Bryony, like the availability of drugs, friends and people who are not conducive to helping a woman out of her recovery period. It will not be in peninsula Halifax, it will be somewhere where there is a setting that is more peaceful, more tranquil, more conducive to recovery.
The second question, in terms of substance abuse, it will not be a gambling centre for women who have gambling problems unless there are substance abuse addictions that coincide with their gambling addiction. There is no priority ranking for substance abuse. You can be dual-addicted, you can have crack addictions, you can have heroin addictions, alcoholism, this will not be a harm-reduction model. It will be zero tolerance, in terms of the women who come to this facility. They will be required to go through some sort of detoxification before they come to this facility. That is based on the experiences of Exodus House.
The counsellors and the professionals that are on our board now wholeheartedly agree that you cannot run a recovery centre for substance abuse if you have harm reduction. That is where that stands right now. I, by no means, am a counselling person or have a social work background, my background is in political science. I stand away from that and let the professionals make those decisions.
In terms of your funding, I agree, Jerry, 100 per cent, that non-profits in this area are basically working against each other to taste the same piece of the pie. In the last 10 years,
fundraisers have brought in considerable amounts of money, and it also allows the executive director of these facilities to do the work they were hired to do. When you speak to somebody in a non-profit community organization right now who does not employ a fundraiser, the percentage of the executive director's time chasing money totally takes away from the responsibilities and duties that she should be performing. That is why more organizations - such as Phoenix, Adsum, Bryony - have moved in that direction.
I agree with you that we are all chasing the same pie, but at a time when governments seems to be downsizing in terms of the social aspect of what happens in their communities, we have no alternative. It is either that or close the doors. Most non-profits in this area face financial crunches, we don't expect to be any different. We expect a fundraiser who is going to do the job, make the goals and forge the corporate partnerships.
As other areas of our province grow, including the offshore and the companies that come in from that, these companies come in looking to start a profile in the communities so that it is positive; setting up social action committees within these companies is very popular these days. They are looking for groups they can help, that they can stick their logo on, and go out into the community and say, we are doing this. Non-profits, wholeheartedly, are saying knock on my door.
We are seeing a rise in fundraising in non-profits. I don't have to tell you the reputation that Nova Scotians have in terms of giving to non-profits. I was responsible for the annual campaign for the Arthritis Society last September and in 30 days, I raised $140,000 with 2,000 volunteers. So it is very - I am not going to say easy, but certainly - realistic in this age. Where this is a new facility that addresses a gap that has been here for so long, we are optimistic at the limited feedback that we have sought out so far.
I have not put my energies into looking for private partnerships right now. I put my energies into government. In terms of the municipality, I have met with Peter Kelly. He has written a letter of support and we are also going to be working with the grants committee of the municipality to look for some tax relief on the shelter tax and then grants in the long run. By no means are they off the hook. They too have a responsibility in this issue. I really felt that Mayor Kelly understood that and was committed to working with us in the future on that.
MR. PYE: Just briefly, Mr. Chairman, I wanted to say that I am pleased to hear that you are looking at this in the long range. I guess what I am going to ask you is, is it an opportunity to renew the funding from HRDC federally? I am not speaking in defence of the province, but I think the province has a right to be defended in some cases. When the federal government steps in and offers initial funding and so on, and then through Canadian social services transfers, then in fact they reduce their commitment to provinces and then the provinces are left on the hook to address the social needs, that is certainly not fair.
I think we have to be very careful of that because by the year 2003, my belief is that you will just be up and running. You will just be able then to gauge and assess and evaluate the needs of the community out there. That might be the very time that you may not get a renewed grant from HRDC, which means the province then will do the total covering of that cost. I think that one has to be very careful in looking long range at that. That is a caution that I know you are looking at anyway, but I just wanted to say it because I have witnessed the Antigonish issue, which has now got its doors closed. I witnessed meetings, three times now so far, on funding for the Freedom Foundation and meeting with the Minister of Health on those issues.
I don't think we should have to go through that again. That is the kind of exercise that I don't want us to be going through. I think that it is important that we recognize that we better be very careful.
MS. BERNARD: And that is the kind of exercise that I have seen in my dealings with federal and provincial counterparts in the past three months. I understand that the HRDC funding will not, in any of the projects that have been started through the $6 million that came through from the federal government, be extended. There might be new money to start new facilities or new programs or to update ones that are there, but this will not be an extension of the first round.
I understand the conflict between the provincial government and the federal government because I have been listening to it for three months. Yes, they come in, they pour lots of money around like candy and we are left holding the bag. Why don't you increase your transfer payments so that we can pick up the bag and it is not such a big deal? While I am hearing this going back and forth, all I can think of is this is so unproductive for the women who are in crisis every day. Yes, we all realize there is a problem, but somebody has to take responsibility for it. If it is the federal government that wants to start this, as a board, we don't really care. We just want it started and we want it sustained. That was the point we were at.
We realize the hoops that we had to jump through and we were quite willing to do that. We understand that when there are two political stripes of provincial/federal, that there is going to be an antagonistic approach to the right thing and many of us thought this was the right thing to be done. So I understand that. I can guarantee you that of the people that are involved with this board, one of whom started Hope Farm, that we are well aware of the obstacles and the challenges ahead in terms of funding. We will deal with them as they come. We are looking long term. None of us - and certainly not me - are committed to this project only to see it close March 31 or April 1, 2003.
MR. PYE: Thank you, Mr. Chairman, and I do wish Marguerite Centre success.
MS. BERNARD: Thanks, Jerry.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Ronald Chisholm.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: I guess, Mr. Chairman, the only question I would have is on the yearly budget. What would the estimated yearly budget for your facility be and what percentage would be government funded and what percentage would be raised on a personal basis through your fundraising?
MS. BERNARD: Our budget is in the middle of being reassessed with the Department of Health.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Just an estimate.
MS. BERNARD: Just an estimate. It will be under $0.5 million per year; somewhere in the range of, I believe, $410,000. Of that, after 2003, we will receive, I believe the amount is $46,000 in terms of redirected income assistance.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Is that from federal?
MS. BERNARD: No, that would be from the provincial Department of Community Services. We have shelter costs of $58,000; between the difference of $46,000 from income assistance and our expenditures, Housing Services, within the Department of Community Services, will be making up the difference between rental revenue and rental expenditures. We have approximately $125,000 between grants and fundraising. We have a commitment from private donors for long-term sustainable funding, including the Archdiocese in the Community of Notre Dame, in the amounts of anywhere from $50 to $75,000. The rest will be made up with a grant from the Department of Health.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Okay, but after 2003, the . . .
MS. BERNARD: This is after 2003.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Okay, because I know from what Mr. Pye has been saying that some of the programs that have been started, I know there is one in Guysborough County that was started through a joint program between the province and HRDC and when the federal funding dried up after the third year it certainly was a problem.
MS. BERNARD: Bob Fowler said the other day that this was a unique project to him because we have the next 19 months paid for and we are actively doing long-term budgets for up to five years. So the partnerships that we forge now don't start now, they start in 2003. So that keeps us going and he was very pleased to see that.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Okay, other than to thank our presenter on a good presentation, I certainly learned quite a bit from it. Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chataway.
MR. JOHN CHATAWAY: Mr. Chairman, Mr. Chisholm said that he has learned quite a bit and I have learned quite a bit too. I certainly appreciate the questions from the other side and from this side, that gives more depth on that. Basically, I had the same question about budgets. I am putting it in rather simplistic terms. From 2003 onward, you are going to have an approximately $420,000 budget?
MS. BERNARD: I would say $410,000.
MR. CHATAWAY: Okay, $410,000, something like this. From what I understand, from corporate or individual donations, et cetera, you will come up with about $75,000?
MS. BERNARD: Yes, a little more, probably.
MR. CHATAWAY: Well, let's hope it is more. But whatever, in that regard, the rest would be paid by the Department of Community Services and the Department of Health, is that correct? Mr. Fowler is . . .
MS. BERNARD: Yes, it would be the Department of . . .
MR. CHATAWAY: . . . very optimistic about the scheme . . .
MS. BERNARD: Yes, and then there would be ongoing funding relationships, privately, of people who have already committed and we are also looking at the United Way.
MR. CHATAWAY: I think you have done a good job of explaining exactly how important that is, because I am sure you like people's money, but at the same time you want to get the public commitment behind the noble idea that you are doing. I think we are all very concerned that you treat these people.
I guess the other thing is, maybe naively, you have 12 people, what is the average stay you would get a client?
MS. BERNARD: Well, based on the experiences of Exodus House, their average stay was nine months. We refuse, as a board, to put a time limit on recovery. Recovery is very individual. It is unique and people recover at different times. The reference that is used in the community is that for every year of substance abuse is a month of recovery needed and that has been fairly well translated into recovery stays at Exodus House. So, at the end of nine months, if you have made progress, you are not asked to leave. You stay until you feel that
you have all the outcomes we have in place and that you feel you have dealt with and are completely satisfied to both the woman and to the staff of the house.
MR. CHATAWAY: That is, of course, why people like yourself have wisdom - you are dealing with every individual and everybody is an individual. At the same time, I just wanted to get rough figures. I understand that people getting help are people who have gone through detox before they come to your facility and that is good. Is there any particular detox worse than others?
MS. BERNARD: I really don't think I am an authority to say which - I just know that from First Voice they do end up - I can tell you a conversation of where a woman said I went to 28 day, it allowed me to get strong, I was able to sleep, I was able to eat and before I walked out of the lobby, I was on the phone looking for my next hit. So, we can take it from there.
MR. CHATAWAY: I guess, maybe one last question because I know others have more questions. As a person goes through the centre and you are helping them out and things like that and trying to convince them to, hopefully, make good decisions for their future, I am sure you are talking about after they would leave the facility, where would they go? You are talking about a "safe" home - you don't want them to go right back to their old reactions, things like that. Are the people you deal with convinced that they should take a step to a brighter future? You say, you should be doing things and getting out of this situation and I am sure you are having discussions with that. Are you pretty sure that most of the people buy into a safer home for themselves?
MS. BERNARD: Women who abuse drugs - for every one I have spoken with and the work that I have done in the community, don't like where their lives are right now. They are not safe, they are open and vulnerable to violence. So, when they are given a facility where they see a chance - I wish I had a dollar for every time I have spoken to a recovering woman who said, oh, my God, I wish that was there when I was trying to recover. I have spoken with counsellors in 12 to 15 community organizations for this proposal. I could fill that place on their caseload alone for each one. When women leave, based on the program that has been individually set up with them through the women's counsellor at the house, they will be in the position to decide where they want to live, but they will have the option of going into transitional housing.
Out of the 17 units at Alice Housing, 10 of those units now have women living in them who have issues with addictions or have had issues with addictions. The same people who use Bryony House, Adsum House, Veith House, Barry House, all the houses, will use Marguerite Centre. There is a constant circle of services. We are trying to break that circle and make sure that they get on to independent living at a pace that they are comfortable with and it is not setting them up for failure.
MR. CHATAWAY: If I am hearing you right, basically the person going through the facility - you say it might be 9 months, it could be 2 years, it could be 6 months, whatever the time is - the people are planning for their future and I am sure the whole facility is convincing them that they should do that and then, being part of their - you are okay now that you have made a commitment to them and insisting the people get involved with a safer facility?
MS. BERNARD: This facility, through the staff that will be involved with it, will make sure that the women who leave here feel that they have the coping techniques that they need in order to live in their community. That is very important, otherwise, it is all for naught and we are going to see a relapse and that is not something we are prepared to have. The women who have gone through Exodus House, out of 53 or 54 women, they have a 90 per cent recovery rate. That is quite high; it was only a three bed facility. A lot of these women are working in drug dependency services around the city now.
We are prepared to have women make positive life goals and positive family plans and that may or may not include reuniting with their children. I think it is a fallacy for women, that they all want to be reunited with their children, some feel it is best if they stay in foster care because they cannot handle the responsibility of parenting. As long as it is a positive family plan, with positive alternatives, that is what is going to be put in place with these women. They are the designers of their own future, their own destiny. What we are offering them is the hope and the belief that they can do it and the tools to help them do it and we are doing that in partnership with many, many community organizations from employment, to education, to recovery, everything is covered.
MR. CHATAWAY: And you are all talking about it and getting commitments on everybody . . .
MS. BERNARD: I have it all in writing.
MR. CHATAWAY: That is wonderful. Mr. Chairman, I very much appreciate having this chance to ask questions. Ms. Bernard, I certainly am far more informed and many people are referring that you are very ecstatic now and the board of directors is ecstatic so we have made real progress recently and are going in the right direction. Keep up your good work.
MS. BERNARD: Thank you.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Clarke.
MR. CECIL CLARKE: Ms. Bernard, also welcome. If I ask questions with regard to monetary things it is only because I don't think there is any dispute on the merit and what it is the facility will do. I concur that this is something we would want to see, I think, the government, in terms of working with communities and advocates, to ensure that programming is appropriate for needs.
Based on 12 people, I think the large institutionalized version of any sort of recovery program is sort of better delivered through a smaller model, which in some ways could allude to the fact that it is going to cost more but I think you agree that the success rates on the other side would be better for society and the individuals. With a 12 person facility, when you look at this comparatively for women, has anyone looked at the assessed demand? I understand we can build as many facilities for almost any social ill that we have and probably will still not have enough dollars to deliver on that. Obviously, for anyone who has benefited or can access this, it is a good thing. Do your colleagues in the wider community dealing with women and addiction feel that this is going to positively address and help to curb in a real way some of the addiction problems and recovery?
MS. BERNARD: Yes they do. Recently the Government of B.C. did a study where they followed one woman who had her child in foster care and the services she accessed in one year. The bill was well over $100,000. We know that when women overcome their abuse issues and the issues that led to substance abuse, we know that they move on and live creatively in the community. I should have brought a letter written by a woman who went through Exodus House. What is really funny is in one of the paragraphs she mentioned, in support of this facility, she is the only person she knows who is happy to pay taxes, because for many years she didn't and she feels that she needs to give back.
We lowered the count from 20 to 12. It is comparable to the men's facilities in the province. We also did research in other facilities across Canada, and we looked at the Youville Centre in Calgary, which by the way has had such remarkable fundraising techniques that they are now totally self-sufficient without government aid. Trust me, that is the goal, eventually, in the long run, for this facility.
We know that not everyone who comes out of this program is going to have positive outcomes and they may have to come back to us. We also know that just with a relatively low success rate, that is worth it. We don't put a monetary price on the human condition of recovery. We just know that socially it is a responsibility, and whatever fiscal gains are made because women aren't abusing substances, whether it be not through violence or crime costs, that is not the motivation for this house, it is a benefit of this house. I don't know if I am answering your question.
MR. CLARKE: One thing related - this is the non-financial, obviously aside from the individual being impacted, often cases, and you have talked with us before - is children. Someone who is in a treatment facility, what is the relationship with Community Services, the involvement of the children in building that rapport as well? If you have a facility that is stand alone, I am just thinking if someone is from another area, how is that all going to work, to make sure that family unit gets reconnected and grows in a positive sense for post-treatment?
MS. BERNARD: I find in this province we are extraordinarily good at breaking families up but we are not so great in getting them back together again. This facility is really going to address that problem. We have parents on our board who have raised foster children and know the system quite well. We will employ a part-time children's counsellor, and in collusion with child services and Community Services, women who have supervised visits with their children, instead of meeting them at a mall or Tim Hortons or a cold case room in the Department of Community Services, can come to this house.
There will be a co-operation in terms of the caseworker for the children and the case- worker for the mom. Caseworkers for children, now, would love to see this facility going, because right now they don't have the opportunity to bring these kids to their mothers in a safe environment, in a place where mom is working on her issues and there is hope for reunification at the end. Support is there in that aspect.
Everybody should have the same goal in terms of what is best for the children and what is best for the women, and we really feel that in this instance everybody is on the same page. There is a co-operation between caseworkers and the workers at the house.
MR. CLARKE: It's not my intention, when I mentioned about financial, to needle away, because I am not being critical, I am just trying to understand. Maybe just as a request, is there a way, through the Chairman and the committee administration, just to get some of the background. I am looking and saying, capital costs versus operational. I know we can talk about per diem expenses, and I really think I want to gain an understanding. I am wondering if you could supply some of that information to the committee.
MS. BERNARD: When the financial arrangements between the board and Health are finalized, absolutely, I will provide those to you.
MR. CLARKE: Thank you.
MS. BERNARD: You're welcome.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Hurlburt.
MR. RICHARD HURLBURT: Mr. Chairman, I apologize for being late this morning. I have an addiction too, and that is my telephone, I answer it every time it rings, or I try to. Just briefly, siting your new home for this facility, you say it is not going to be in the city, directly in the city, but in the surrounding area.
MS. BERNARD: Yes.
MR. HURLBURT: Do you feel you are going to have any problems in the community, wherever you are going to try to locate?
MS. BERNARD: That is something, actually, that we discussed Monday night at our board meeting. Wherever this facility is going to be, we are going to be extraordinarily forthright with the residents of the community, and we are going to go house-to-house in a radius and explain what is happening there. We have Carol Charlebois and members from Hope Farm, Exodus House, and Coverdale on our board, and they have all gone through the NIMBY syndrome before, so their expertise is very well-founded. Exodus House, believe it or not, actually had a little bit of NIMBY there in Rockingham, in Wedgewood. Even though it was a three-bed facility, they did have some opposition, and these were two nuns from the Order of Notre Dame and that was quickly mollified when neighbours could see that this was not going to be a drug hangout or anything like that.
David O'Leary, who is the executive director of Alcare Place, we have had this conversation as well. His neighbours initially were not opposing but certainly concerned and are now very supportive because people understand that if these people are not in their communities healing, then they may be in their communities committing property crimes or other crimes.
So people are quite reasonable to understand what goes on in a recovery centre. We have no intention of going into any community through the backdoor and hoping that no one finds out. This won't be a signed facility for obvious reasons. We just don't feel the need for that. So we are going to be quite open with the community that we eventually set up in, in terms of what it is. We are going to set up a community meeting, have our board represented and speak to the community about their concerns.
MR. HURLBURT: That was my suggestion, to have the community support and make sure of your zoning and your by-laws. This new facility is going to be for all residents across our great province, I take it?
MS. BERNARD: In order to satisfy the requirements of the HRDC money, the facility has to be in the HRM and referrals will come from community agencies. People who run community agencies know that most people - men or women - who come from outside of HRM make their way to a community organization and then they are referred, so yes, this will be used for people who are outside of the HRM. Our hope is in the future to have houses - there was one that was trying desperately to get started in Cape Breton and there is a tremendous need in the South Shore of this province for a house of this type. The five men's facilities are scattered fairly good across the province, with the exception of around the South Shore, so that is our hope.
MR. HURLBURT: Well good luck and thank you very much.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Any other short questions?
MR. PYE: Just one question, Mr. Chairman. I did ask you earlier, with respect to the kind of addictions, and I guess that you have obviously done an assessment and the need is out there - a needs assessment done with respect to the individuals who have addiction problems - what is the greatest addiction problem out there, is it substance abuse or is it alcoholism?
MS. BERNARD: I would . . .
MR. PYE: Because you are not dealing with gambling.
MS. BERNARD: No, I would say alcoholism has the edge, but there are components. There are crack pockets, there is also a drug - and this shows my ignorance to substance abuse. I think Maureen, if you could help me, it is Dilaudid or . . .
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Yes, it is prescription drugs.
MS. BERNARD: It is prescription drugs which is almost comparative of heroin, along that way. That is the alcoholism (Interruption) Yes, and Valium. A lot of these women are dually addicted, alcohol and drugs.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Clarke, you have a question?
MR. CLARKE: Mr. Chairman, for the record, I know in my area, the Sisters of Notre Dame, with Shalom House, have been instrumental. I would think that a lot of credit is owed to the order. I know Marguerite House would be very appropriate in that. I say this as a Protestant, that they have done an outstanding service to our community. I think it is something we should note and thank them for because it is filling a need that they recognized and hopefully your work now will carry on.
MR. WILSON: You don't have to be Catholic to praise the nuns.
MR. CLARKE: I am named after one, in the middle.
MS. BERNARD: I wish that Sister Connie and Sister Mary could have been here today, but they are actually on their way to Louisbourg because there is a room being opened in the fortress that is going to be commemorative of their order, because apparently nuns taught in the Fortress Louisbourg from Notre Dame. So that is where they are today. You are right, Shalom House in Cape Breton is on its way to declining because the nuns are getting older and that was the reason why Exodus House eventually had to stop. They just couldn't do it anymore. These are retired teachers. They are getting on in years and it was a 24-7-365 operation. So they had to just move it to a day program for six weeks.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: Mr. Chairman, I have one last quick question. You may have said this and I apologize if you did, but I missed it. What are you projecting for your annual operating costs?
MS. BERNARD: Roughly around $410,000.
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: I did some rough calculations on what the province will be paying. Based on the $10 per day per diem is if that house is full every day of the year, every bed, which hardly ever happens in most shelters, and if every bed is occupied every single day by a person who is on social assistance or qualifies for social assistance, which again hardly ever happens, then the best case scenario is that the Province of Nova Scotia will be paying $42,720 annually, out of an operating budget of $410,000. I wish you well. I want to say to everybody around this table - because in 2003, who knows who will be in government - I think that we all need to be thinking about the sustainability of this centre at that point.
MS. BERNARD: The total amount that Community Services will be putting into this facility, top dollars, will be $58,000 because the housing component will make up for the difference. I don't have my other budget with me, but I believe with Health it works out to $36 a day. So it is low.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chataway.
MR. CHATAWAY: I need more clarification on that. Okay, $75,000 comes from charitable or private or corporate funds and $58,000 from Community Services and then the rest comes from the Department of Health?
MS. BERNARD: We have grants and we already have established sustainable partnerships with the outside through the Archdiocese and through the Notre Dame community.
MR. CHATAWAY: The Department of Health was how much?
MS. BERNARD: That is still yet to be worked out, but roughly it will work out to around $36 per day.
MR. CHATAWAY: What about the Department of Community Services?
MS. BERNARD: They will be supplying $403 a month to women who are on income assistance.
MR. CHATAWAY: How much from the feds?
MS. BERNARD: They are paying for the whole shot up until 2003. Today I have a meeting with Justice and we are hoping to work out something with them, as well.
MR. CHATAWAY: After 2003?
MS. BERNARD: After 2003.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Thank you and just let me clear up an issue this morning. I wasn't looking for support by starting with Mr. Wilson this morning. The reason I started with Mr. Wilson was that this topic was placed on this agenda at the request of Mr. Wilson, so I thought it was fair that we start that way.
I want to thank Joanne Bernard for her presentation. I am sure the members are more informed on this topic, and if it is agreeable by all members, we will take a two minute break, if we want to personally go down and thank Ms. Bernard. Then we will come back and finish up our business.
MS. BERNARD: I would like to thank Mr. Wilson for putting this on the docket. I had the opportunity to speak with both Mr. Wilson and Dr. Smith, also with Maureen and Jerry, personally, about this issue to seek their support. They were very good in giving me that support.
[10:26 a.m. The committee recessed.]
[10:30 a.m. The committee reconvened.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: Let's call our committee back. Maybe we can give Darlene a couple of topics to put on the agenda for the next meetings, or what witnesses we should bring in.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Mr. Chairman, before we get into that, I would make a motion that we adjourn our meetings for the summer, due to different things that everybody has, we are all going to be busy. I guess we have had a pretty good run of some of the witnesses we wanted in. I would suggest that we . . .
MR. CHAIRMAN: May I suggest, Mr. Chisholm, that at least maybe we could get a couple of things on the agenda so that we could maybe give Darlene time to (Interruptions)
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: That is fine, I just want to make people aware that I am making that motion, that we adjourn for the summer.
MR. HURLBURT: I want to make them aware I am seconding it.
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Not that I don't think the witness list we do have is not important, I think at some future date we can . . .
MR. CLARKE: I would like to suggest that with regard to the list of issues - and we have been trying to accommodate some Opposition items - there are two key things that we would like to see addressed and to bring forward, and it opens up the agenda, come the fall, for a number of other representations. I think the Black Task Force and the Nova Scotia Child Benefit are two areas that I would like to see brought forward. I would recommend those.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is that agreed by other members? (Interruptions)
MS. MAUREEN MACDONALD: No, I think we should have a discussion about what we have done so far. I think we submitted a list, right? In the past - correct me if I am wrong - the process has been to go to each of the lists and do it sort of in a fair way, if I could say that, rather than just deal with one caucus' list, but actually take an item that is recommended by the Liberal caucus, take an item that is recommended by the PC caucus, take an item that is recommended by the NDP caucus, and continue along in that vein. I am not sure what we have done to date, in terms of the various lists that were submitted. What I am saying is that we should probably rotate the witnesses that are being brought forward in that way. That is what I would suggest.
MR. CLARKE: In that vein, in all fairness, I think the committee has been very accommodating to Opposition Party requests on their lists. There are two other areas that we have requested. It is starting up the next meeting, and we know there is a motion to adjourn for the summer. I think that in some ways, in all fairness, it provides the understanding that come the fall, that we will accommodate, so I would move that we put the Black Task Force and the Nova Scotia Child Benefit on the agenda for the next meeting.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would someone second that motion?
MR. CHATAWAY: Mr. Chairman, I second the motion.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
MR. PYE: I was hoping it wouldn't have moved so fast because first of all we don't know how long we are off for the summer - if it is September or October - we haven't determined what months we will be off. Obviously, it will be June and July, I don't know if it is August and obviously it might be August as well. So, it might be September or October when we come back.
It was very concerning to me that since the impact of income assistance and the impact of the changes to the income assistance for single parents and persons with disabilities and mental health consumers will then be felt as of August 1st when the government's Bill No. 62 and regulations come fully into effect that we would have an opportunity to bring those individuals before this standing committee to see what concerns they have. I have no difficulty with the recommendations that Mr. Clarke has made, but I would like to see this as a priority on the agenda as well. If it is possible to reconsider your motion and have one of your items on the agenda as well as an item from us, I would be open and receptive to that move.
MR. CLARKE: Just with that, in all due respect, I think if we are going to look at convening in September or October, from a straight point of view of being fair, to properly address your item - and I don't disagree that we shouldn't - I think we should find out and give benefit for time for the implementation. I mean, there is a process that . . .
MR. PYE: Excuse me for interjecting, but many people will know after the very first day what kind of an impact or effect it will have on them. If we come back in October, there will be at least two months . . .
MR. CLARKE: And I would like to have the benefit of seeing how the government responds to any concerns and so that we see how the implementation - so when we have a representation, it is not the initial knee-jerk reaction to a new system. That we have the benefit of what is working, if there are problem areas, what has been done and I think I would maintain my motion as I presented it.
MR. PYE: Mr. Chairman, then I would so move that this be the next item on the agenda and that it be an item that be dealt with as quickly as possible. After Black Task Force and the Nova Scotia Child Benefit programs, the items that will come forward in the first meeting of the fall of this Standing Committee on Community Services, then I would so move that this be the third item.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would someone second that motion?
MR. SAMSON: I second the motion, Mr. Speaker.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
The motion is carried.
MR. HURLBURT: The NDP and the Liberal caucuses, their submissions here, is that in priority of the two caucuses, or is it just at random? (Interruptions) I would suggest maybe that the individual caucuses put in a priority list, how they want it and for us to deal with it then, that we stagger after that.
MR. SAMSON: We have three on the agenda now. We have enough to start off with.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Mr. Chisholm, you have a motion?
MR. RONALD CHISHOLM: Yes, I do, Mr. Chairman, I would move that we adjourn our meetings until October.
MR. SAMSON: If I can just speak on the motion and I guess if I could suggest maybe an amendment to the motion, I have no problem with that, but I think as a committee and as responsible legislators, should something come up that would require our immediate attention, I certainly would not want to see if there was a motion made and we don't meet until next October, that we are not going to meet with anyone.
Therefore, I would suggest a friendly amendment to that motion - and I don't know if setting the month of October is the proper date - what I would suggest is that this committee recess for the summer months and that possibly we even have a phone conference mid-September to discuss when we should arrange for the next meeting because Lord knows where all of us will be by that time. By mid-September summer vacations are usually over. Maybe either a telephone conference or Darlene can check to see if all three caucuses are having a caucus meeting on the same week and then we can arrange a meeting knowing most of the members should be in town during that time.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Is that agreeable with the mover, that this be included in your motion? (Interruptions)
MR. SAMSON: I guess the idea being that should something come up that we do have the ability to reconvene a meeting, whether it be July or August, but other than that that we recess for the summer, at the call of the chairman.
MR. CHAIRMAN: Would all those in favour of the motion please say Aye. Contrary minded, Nay.
[The motion is carried.]
MR. CHAIRMAN: The meeting is adjourned.
[The committee adjourned at 10:41 a.m.]