Community Services says it tried to save Talbot House

Senior bureaucrats at Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services say they tried hard to keep an addiction recovery house open in Cape Breton.

Department to ask groups to open recovery centre in Cape Breton

Senior bureaucrats at Nova Scotia's Department of Community Services say they tried hard to keep an addiction recovery house open in Cape Breton.

Talbot House shut down suddenly in March as the department was reviewing the centre's operations.

"The last thing that we wanted was Talbot House to close," Marika Lathem, the department's director of family and youth services, told a committee of the legislature Tuesday.

The trouble for Talbot House — the only addiction recovery centre outside the Halifax area — began in Feburary when the priest who ran the centre resigned when a former resident made unspecified allegations about him.

That sparked the government review, which determined the centre in Frenchvale was not following proper procedures.

It found that Talbot House had no job descriptions, performance or program reviews, or policies on staff-client relations. It recommended better financial practices.

The centre's board of directors denounced the report, saying it was riddled with errors and fundamentally flawed.

But before that review was even complete, the acting executive director quit and the centre closed in March. The facility's provincial funding ran out and was not renewed.

To Kelly Regan, a Liberal committee member, it seems the department wasn't all that helpful.

"I believe that with some assistance from DCS, Talbot House would still be in operation today," she said.

Lathem and two other colleagues told the committee they wanted to help the recovery centre and were surprised when it closed.

George Savoury, executive director of the department's family and community supports division, suggested that the province was prepared to provide funding for a new executive director for Talbot House and offer any special help it needed.

"Had the board not decided to close in March, we would have given them those recommendations which they got in April and we would be in discussions with them on how do we move forward to improve and make a stronger recovery house in Cape Breton," he said.

Savoury said he's not convinced the centre's board did everything in its power to find a new executive director.

Request for proposals

But Talbot House may get a second chance.

The department plans to put out a request for proposals for an addictions recovery centre in Cape Breton before the end of the month, and that includes Talbot House.

"They will be viewed the same way as the other, if there's other organizations choose to apply," said Savoury.

Progressive Conservative MLA Keith Bain is urging Talbot House to apply.

"I certainly hope they will because it's a great institution. It's a success and it should be going forward," Bain said.

Police found there were no grounds to lay charges against Rev. Paul Abbass, who had been running Talbot House for 17 years.

Talbot House has a big supporter in Sean McSween, a pharmacist who spent nine months at the recovery centre a decade ago for alcohol abuse.

"My first night, right off the bat, it started to change my world view, that there was somebody other than my mom and dad who cared," McSween told CBC News.

"My whole time up there, it was the same. That theme deepened and deepened. There was a real sense of being cared for unconditionally."