Nova Scotia

Marguerite Centre, women's addiction centre, faces potential closure

Marguerite Centre, Nova Scotia's only recovery home for women battling alcohol, drug and gambling addictions, is in danger of closing at the end of December.

Centre wants funding parity with men's addiction recovery homes so it can keep doors open

Marguerite Centre serves between 30 and 35 women in recovery every year. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

Marguerite Centre, Nova Scotia's only recovery home for women battling alcohol, drug and gambling addictions, is in danger of closing at the end of December.

"That's not a bluff, no, no," said Lisa Mullin, the home's executive director.

She says the centre has had to secure a line of credit to continue operating and it is the first time it has done so in its roughly 15 years of operation.

"This is obviously not a position that any charity wants to be in," said Mullin.

Lisa Mullin, Marguerite Centre's executive director, is unsure why the home gets less funding per bed than recovery homes in Nova Scotia for men. (Elizabeth Chiu/CBC)

The centre is running a deficit of $100,000, and that has the home asking for emergency funding from the province on the grounds the three recovery houses for men in the province receive more government funding than it does.

"The province isn't acknowledging that women require the same amount of care as men," said Mullin. "We all provide fantastic services. I'm not sure why we continue to be funded less than our counterparts."

Gender funding disparity

Mullin looked up funding for the four homes on the Canada Revenue Agency website and was shocked to discover how much funding the different centres received from government:

  • Alcare Place, a 13-bed facility in Halifax - 93 per cent
  • Talbot House, a 21-bed centre in Frenchvale - 90 per cent
  • Freedom Foundation, a 13-bed facility in Dartmouth - 74 per cent
  • Marguerite Centre,  11-beds for women in Timberlea - 50 per cent

Mullin crunched some numbers and determined that each bed at male recovery centres gets about $22,000 from government, while it is about $16,000 at her centre.

Mullin says about $70,000 of the $100,000 deficit the centre is facing comes from the disparity in government funding.

Provincial funding for Marguerite Centre has been frozen since 2007-2008, even though the costs to run the home have risen by 15 per cent.

"I don't think it was the intention of the province back in the day to have a disparity because of gender... I think they did feel that we had stable funding or existing funding that was covering our needs, and therefore they weren't going to pay as much as the rest of them," said Mulllin.

Health minister wants meeting

The health department declined a CBC request for an interview, but says the minister wants to meet with the home to discuss the situation.

The department confirms the Marguerite Centre's $174,310 in funding is the lowest. Alcare Place gets $246,947, Freedom Foundation receives $265,260, while Talbot House draws $391,800 from the province.

The centre serves between 30 and 35 women in recovery every year. It operates on a budget of $422,000, and most of that covers salaries for seven counsellors and three administrative staff. 

Women commit to taking programs lasting from six months to one year to learn strategies to beat their addiction, and get back on their feet.

Closure would put women 'at jeopardy'

Mullin says closure would put the women at risk because many of them struggle with underlying issues of trauma and low self-esteem.

Mullin continues to fundraise and is driven by the grim possibility the centre could shut down at the end of the year.

"Asking them to leave is very difficult to have to do. Compounded by the fact that it may be the holidays, and they may have to go back to undesirable locations," she said. "It makes me sick to think that we will be putting these women at jeopardy."

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