Concerns about St. James addictions treatment centre based on 'misinformation': Calgary specialist

The executive director of a long-term addictions treatment centre in Calgary says he's faced — and eased — neighbourhood concerns over his residential location.

Fresh Start director says he dealt with similar concerns before opening Calgary site in 2011

Stacey Petersen is the executive director at Fresh Start Recovery Centre in Calgary, which plans to help run the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre.

The executive director of a long-term addictions treatment centre in Calgary says he's faced — and eased — neighbourhood concerns over his residential location.

"Our experience is that once somebody is actually given the truth, they go, 'Wow, I'm sorry. We understand now that you're part of the solution,'" said Stacey Petersen.

Petersen is with the Fresh Start Recovery Centre. The accredited recovery facility has provided long-term treatment for men struggling with addictions in a residential Calgary location since 2011.

The Bruce Oake Foundation has been working with Petersen to create a similar treatment centre in Winnipeg, potentially at the site of the old Vimy Arena in St. James. Once the foundation has confirmed a site where it can house the treatment centre, Fresh Start will help to run it.

Misconceptions are 'frustrating'

But those hopes have been soured after some locals raised safety concerns about the proposed treatment centre and its location. The area's city councillor, Shawn Dobson, has also voiced his opposition to the proposed location.

Some residents say they're worried drugs and crime would seep into their neighbourhood. Others are concerned their property value would decrease with a nearby addictions centre.

The Vimy Arena in Crestview was shut down a few years ago and is being eyed as the location for the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre. (CBC)

Petersen said those fears are unfounded, and he doesn't know who was spreading rumours of lowered property values and crime.

"The frustrating part is that the people who bristle with antagonism, those are the ones that usually wind up getting on the pro side once they get the truth," said Petersen.

"The reason they're upset is because they're getting misinformation."

Calgary site safe since 2011 opening

Petersen said Fresh Start's original location is one block from a residential area, and that nearby property values have stayed the same since they opened six years ago. He said he held community meetings and went door-to-door before the site opened, explaining how the treatment centre works and that it has 24/7 staffing and security.

Winnipeg's facility would be run in the same manner, he said.

"We're talking about active addiction versus recovery. People in active addiction aren't interested in hanging out in a facility that's abstinence-based. It's not a place where dealers are going to congregate."

Petersen said he wasn't invited to earlier St. James community discussions about the proposed treatment centre, and he hopes to get a chance in the future to talk through safety concerns.

He said the Calgary neighbourhood welcomed Fresh Start after looking into its 25-year history, and it has become a local fixture for holiday events and barbecues. 

Winnipeggers, he hopes, will eventually get to a similar place with the Bruce Oake Recovery Centre, since the opioid crisis isn't going anywhere.

"We're talking about an issue here that's reaching a critical mass of awareness," he said.

"I think if you've got a pulse and a heart in your chest, this can work."


Sam Samson


Sam Samson is a senior reporter for CBC News, based in Regina. She's a multimedia journalist who has also worked for CBC in Winnipeg and Sudbury. You can get in touch on Twitter @CBCSamSamson or email