The Alberta government has promised changes to the way private rehab facilities are run after CTV revelations about the unregulated industry.
A CTV investigation into practices at Addiction Canada, and its facilities in Glendon and Sundre, Alberta, revealed allegations of unpaid wages, lack of promised medical supervision and a suicide in care.
“We are aware of Addiction Canada and are looking into it,” said Brandy Payne, the province’s associate health minister.
Currently, there are no regulations for any of the private facilities in the country.
There isn’t any government oversight to ensure safe and best practices are happening or that any professional accreditation is required for staff in the centres.
Former patients told CTV they spent between $20,000 and $30,000 for treatment and were promised a five-star retreat equipped with medical doctors and nurses, nutritious food and amenities such as massage and yoga. All former patients said most of what was advertised on the Addiction Canada website was never offered.
“Because there's no oversight on any of the addiction rehab facilities or the counsellors or staff within those facilities there's no way we actually know or anyone in this country knows what's actually going on behind those doors,” said Crystal Smalldon with the Canadian Addiction Counsellor Certification Federation.
Smalldon has been aggressively working for years to get Ottawa and leaders of provinces to change the legislation to ensure private rehab facilities are regulated with no luck.
“Last year I met with multiple members of parliament of which more than half did not know this was an issue,” she said.
Addiction Canada opened its doors in Sundre in February 2015. All it took was a permit to operate from the local county, just like any other business. Since then, former staff have complained of unpaid wages and patients questioned the quality of care. In fact, one family CTV spoke to doesn’t believe the staff was qualified to care for their son. He killed himself within 24 hours of arriving at the facility in Glendon last year.
It closed earlier this month. The company’s owner, John Haines, said he has shut down the Sundre location as well, citing the tough economy.
Haines also operated three facilities in Ontario, where he is facing fraud and drug trafficking charges.
CTV spoke to a former Addiction Canada patient, who wished to remain anonymous, who said private addiction rehab facilities should be regulated.
He said many families desperately turn to the private sector because the wait times for government beds are too long.
“You can wait up to six weeks to get into a facility,” he said.
According to Alberta Health Services, there are eight residential treatment facilities with just under 900 addiction treatment beds. The average wait time is three weeks.