Couple wants answers after son’s suicide in private rehab centre
An Alberta couple is questioning the quality of care their son received at a private addiction rehab facility located in Glendon, Alberta.
Carmen Cornelius said her 20-year-old son, Brett, became addicted to synthetic marijuana while in high school. Before the drug took over his life, he was a good kid.
“He was smart, happy, enthusiastic, high achieving and he had a lot of friends,” said Cornelius.
Brett eventually developed suicidal thoughts and the family became desperate and tried getting him help through their family doctor, but they were denied.
Cornelius said they felt they had no other choice but to turn to the private sector and paid $20,000 to Addiction Canada to help straighten out Brett’s life.
Brett checked in on October 8, 2015 and less than 24 hours later, he was found hanging in a facility bathroom not equipped with security cameras.
“It was a knock at the door and the RCMP were there. It was about midnight when we were sleeping,” said Paul Cornelius, Brett’s father.
The facility opened just eight months before Brett killed himself. The couple is speaking publicly about their loss for the first time.
Clients paid between $20,000 and $30,000 for treatment. Addiction Canada’s website advertises a world-class facility, equipped with medical staff, including licensed doctors and nurses, a top chef and amenities such as yoga and massage.
CTV reached out to the facility’s owner, John Haines, multiple times in the last two months for an on-camera interview, but he declined. In an email, Haines said his facility was never told Brett was suicidal and any questions about his death should be directed to RCMP and the medical examiner.
Marilyn Cobbett, Glendon’s former facility manager, said she and another counsellor did a full assessment on Brett when he arrived.
Cobbett said they didn’t detect any red flags and therefore, coded him green, which meant he didn’t need to be monitored around the clock.
“He was very social, he was out and about all day, none of us seen it,” said Cobbett. “There was nothing in his file to tell us that we need to watch him closely.”
However, Brett’s parents said they told an Addiction Canada interventionist, who pre-interviewed the family, that their son was suicidal. They say they don’t believe the staff had the skills to take care of patients like Brett.
"When they say we saw him on the video after writing his suicide note. They saw him taking his laces and no one even observed him for the first 24 hours even after he was in there,” said Cornelius.
Private addiction rehab centres are unregulated in Canada. There is no governing body to ensure best practices are happening inside the facility or to hold it accountable.
Brett’s parents want that to change. Their hope is that another family doesn’t have to endure the nightmare they are living.