Some Resort Village of Fort San, Sask., residents opposed to adding treatment facility

WATCH: Some people in the resort village of Fort San are pushing back against the idea of an addictions treatment facility coming to town, despite a local property owner willing to lease a piece of land to the centre.

Some residents in the Resort Village of Fort San, Sask., are against the idea of an addictions treatment facility coming to town.

Indian Head’s Pine Lodge used to be one of the province’s largest addiction treatment centres.

But last December, the building was extensively damaged in a fire and now it hopes to relocate to a former Christian facility in Fort San.

“A number of ratepayers got wind of that,” Mayor Steve Helfrick said.

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“They started a petition to block the movement of Pine Lodge even temporarily.”

Right now, it’s up to council to decide whether substance abuse treatment centres fall under the term “residential care facilities,” which the current zoning allows.

But that vote was pushed to next council meeting to give residents a chance to voice concerns.

“Our ratepayers deserve to be heard and that’s what your council is for,” Helfrick said.

“Once the facts get out there our ratepayers should be able to make a knowledgeable decision on which should happen.”

Helfrick says he’s heard concerns from residents that the people at Pine Lodge are mandated, which he says after looking into it, is not true.

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He also says residents are concerned that their property values will decrease.

“I’ve also looked into that,” Helfrick said. “I contacted the major city real estate organizations and they said there is no study done either way.”

In the meantime, on Monday around 14 union members working at Pine Lodge received layoff notices.

“With the loss of this facility and the delay to reopen the facility it delays treatment that only puts lives at risk,” said Judy Henley, CUPE Saskatchewan President.”

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Addictions counsellor Rand Teed says already long wait times are making it difficult for people with substance abuse issues to access treatment.

“When the resources aren’t there it is really discouraging. If you have a heart problem and you go to the hospital, regardless of how busy it is, you will get treated,” Teed said.

“If you have an addiction issue, which is also a medical problem, if you go to the hospital — they can’t help you. You have to go to detox, but you can’t get into detox, so it makes it difficult for people to accept that this is a medical issue.”

Teed adds in this situation, stigma can lead to misinformation.

“One or two people get a negative idea in their heads and will start talking about that and it tends to feed on people’s irrational fears about things,” Teed said.

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“We’ve done lots of work in the community to educate people on substance abuse disorder to educate people, to help them understand that addiction is a legitimate disease. There is always that older thinking of ‘well, it’s a choice.'”

The village council heard from residents Tuesday. Following the meeting it released a statement, further explaining its position.

“A complicating factor prolonging the council decision is that the owner of the former PCTC site has yet to provide Fort San council with a written development plan for the site,” the statement read.

“While there has been some verbal discussion about Pine Lodge possibly locating in Fort San permanently, to-date Pine Lodge has only committed to locating at the former PCTC site for six months.”

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The statement read if Pine Lodge were to leave the site “council has no assurances that another substance abuse treatment centre would be operated as well as Pine Lodge or have a similar reputation in the community.”

“Further, what may fall into the definition of a residential care facility in one community may not be an appropriate fit in another community. Municipal councils have the duty to decide for themselves how to define items within their respective zoning bylaws,” the statement read.

Council said it understands the importance of treatment facilities, but still has a responsibility to make deicisions it believes is in the best interest of the community.

“Councils needs to be given the time to complete thorough due diligence without outside distractions,” the statement read.

“In the end, if the Resort Village of Fort San council does not believe a substance abuse treatment centre fits into the definition of a “residential care facility” as defined in the Resort Village of Fort San zoning bylaw and that such a use is not in the best interests of the community, then Fort San council is under no obligation to agree to the definition.”

A decision is expected to be made at the next council meeting on March 16.

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