Montreal

Welfare cuts forcing rehab centres to turn away low-income clients

Provincial funding cuts to welfare have resulted in some drug rehab centres turning away people who can’t pay the daily fees.

People on social assistance unable to pay $12 daily fee

An ambulance arrives at the Dianova drug addiction centre in Terrebonne, Que. (CBC)

Provincial funding cuts to welfare have resulted in some drug rehab centres unable to treat people who can't pay the daily fees.

The Dianova centre in Terrebonne is the latest to sound the alarm about the effects of the funding cuts. People on welfare used to get $700 a month to pay for rehab treatment. The amount was reduced to $200 a month last May.

This has made it difficult for clients to afford Dianova's $12 daily rate it charges people on social assistance.

"We try our best to have underprivileged people in the centre, but still we need the payment that is coming from the client," Bruno Ferrari, Dianova's director said.

Other centres have dealt with the impact of the cuts. Last week, the Mélaric rehab center in the Laurentians closed its doors over insufficient funding. The centre refused to charge patients a daily fee.

Lise Bourgault, Mélaric's deputy director general, said it was "morally unacceptable" to charge clients she described as "fragile".

Dianova director Bruno Ferrari says the centre can't operate without the daily fee from clients. (CBC)

The Quebec government said last week it was impossible to meet the centre's budget shortfall given the province's finances.

Six of Mélaric's patients called Dianova to see if they had space for them, but most couldn't afford the day rate, Ferrari said.

"Five of them said no, I don't have a penny, so I can't transfer to Dianova," he said.

Ferrari says that he's happy to refer those who can't afford Dianova's rate to other rehab centres that don't charge a fee. But he worries that soon, there won't be anywhere to refer them to.

"Are these centres going to close their doors in one month, in two months, in six months," he asks.

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