© Austin M. Davis
The Angus Campbell Centre offered addictions treatment as a fee-for-service for more than a year before having to shut its doors.
After nearly 40 years, Angus Campbell Centre closes with no fanfare
Until April 1, 2012, the Angus Campbell Centre (ACC) was funded by the Saskatchewan Health Ministry.
What changed that arrangement is still uncertain.
Staff at the ACC alleged in March 2012 that the funding was pulled by the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR) because the detox centre’s board of directors had decided to focus exclusively on addictions treatment and not mental health.
“We’ve kept our focus on the addicted. Our focus is not on mental illness,” said Jana Horsnall, then-executive director of the ACC.
Addictions counsellors at the ACC told the Times-Herald they were unequipped to deal with the needs of the mentally ill.
“I’m not trained for that,” said Lucy Matechuk. “My field is addiction and I can do my job. I think I do my job very well.”
Representatives from the FHHR at that time declined to comment on the cause of the contract termination with the ACC.
Terry Hutchinson, executive director of mental health and addiction services for FHHR, said that ACC’s replacement — what would become Wakamow Manor detoxification centre — could potentially admit people with acquired brain injuries or other mental illnesses.
“Some of those clients may have a mental illness as well,” Hutchinson told the Times-Herald in 2012. “In our move to provide greater integration of programming between mental health and addiction, we will not be refusing clients with mental illness.”
In the first nine months of Wakamow Manor’s operation, the facility served 303 clients with a 70 per cent success rate for people who made it through the 10–14 day detox program.
A new approach
When the Five Hills Health Region (FHHR) signed a contract with Thunder Creek Rehabilitation Association, the Angus Campbell Centre (ACC) lost all of its government funding.
The ACC was forced to change its operation for the first time to charge a fee for service.
At the same time, the facility extended its services past detox, allowing patients to stay for addictions treatment for up to 90 days.
“How long a client stays depends in large measure on how far the client’s addiction has progressed,” said then-executive director Jana Horsnall in a blog post.
“For many, 28 days of both group and one-on-one recovery training seems adequate. Generally speaking, though, the more time a client spends in Angus Campbell, the better the chances they will avoid relapse.”
Horsnall could not be reached for comment on this story.
In 2012, the ACC’s then-president and board chairman, Elmer Sommerfeld, told the Times-Herald the facility’s operation costs were about $1-million a year. He also said patients would pay a rate of $255 per day.
On Dec. 5, 2013, Sommerfeld said the cost was $155 per day.
Regardless of the cost, the new ACC model proved to be unsustainable.
“In the summer of 2012, our client numbers fell to three clients and at that point we said ‘No. We have already cut our staff to the bone. We have trimmed, trimmed, trimmed, trimmed. But three clients will not pay the bills,’” Sommerfeld said.
He said as a fee-for-service treatment facility, the ACC didn’t have the money for a “massive” advertising campaign. Sommerfeld said the small amount of promotional work the centre was able to do wasn’t enough.
“The difficulty is getting the word out there sufficiently to generate the number of clients you need,” he said.
Still, Sommerfeld can’t answer why the service with such a long history and sterling reputation failed, even after making the switch to charging its patients.
“We would probably still be operating if we knew the answer to that question,” Sommerfeld said. “We just don’t know. There are, as I said, some other factors as well that had to do with Five Hills.
“If we knew why the numbers dropped, then we probably would’ve been able to do something about it.”
The future of treatment
The Angus Campbell Centre (ACC) was always owned by the Moose Jaw Alcohol and Drug Abuse Society Inc. The corporation formed 40 years ago to establish the ACC.
Sommerfeld is currently the society’s vice-president.
“We owned the Angus Campbell building and land,” Sommerfeld said. “We sold that to the present occupants as is. So we did end up with a good-sized chunk of money in the bank.”
The society isn’t in a rush to decide what to do with that money. Options include opening a detox treatment site on a smaller scale or funding addictions education bursaries.
Sommerfeld still believes there will be a demand for fee-for-service treatment centres in Saskatchewan because of the province’s current financial success.
“Not everybody is going to come in and start off with no clients and no dollars. That was a really, very steep hill to climb. When I look back now, I’m surprised that we managed to last a year,” Sommerfeld said.
Rand Teed, president of the Saskatchewan Association for the Betterment of Addiction Services and an addictions counsellor, pointed to the Leipzig Serenity Retreat outside Wilkie, Sask. as a sign that fee-for-service treatment can work.
Publically funded treatment centres in the province have wait times of about a month.
“There are a significant number of people who go out of province into a fee-for-service treatment facility,” Teed said. “In the last two weeks, I’ve had five people elect to go somewhere other than in Saskatchewan to get their addiction treatment.”
Teed said those people have the financial resources and a desire to get into treatment quickly.
Even if fee-for-service is the future of addictions treatment, Teed said the loss of any facility or service impacts the population.
This is especially true with Angus Campbell Centre because of its namesake.
“Angus Campbell himself was a man who was totally dedicated to trying to help people that had drug and alcohol problems,” Teed said. “It’s just sad.”
Austin M. Davis can be reached at 306-691-1258 or follow him on Twitter @theAustinX.