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U-turns addictions centre head disheartened by Victoria’s decision to reject transition house

U-Turn Drop-in Centre executive director Jeff Bourne addresses the audience at a public meeting about his group’s proposal to set up a transition house for recovering addicts.
U-Turn Drop-in Centre executive director Jeff Bourne addresses the audience at a public meeting about his group’s proposal to set up a transition house for recovering addicts.

For years, Jeff Bourne has dedicated his life to helping people recover from the devastating scourge of addiction.

But the executive director of U-turns Addictions Drop-In Centre in Carbonear said he believes many residents in this province just aren’t getting the message about the importance

“People see the word ‘addiction’ and red flags go up,” he said. “They’re not lepers who deserve to be kept on the outskirts of town. They’re just sick people trying to get well.”

Bourne made the comments a day after results of a vote regarding a proposed transition house for recovering addicts in the Town of Victoria were revealed.

Tuesday night, on the same night residents voted in the municipal election, residents in the Trinity Bay town also cast their vote on whether or not they agreed with the transition house proposal.

By a margin of 475-350, residents shot it down.

It was both surprising and disheartening for Bourne, who believed it would’ve gone a long way to combat the opioid crisis here by fostering aftercare and reintegrating recovering addicts into society.

“I really thought the Victoria people had open minds and open hearts,” said Bourne, who said the older generation seemed to have more of a problem with it. “I don’t think they realize that these were people who would’ve been coming from treatment centres and would be clean and sober.

“It’s really too bad, but that’s it. It is what it is now and I have to respect their decision.”

The centre would be located in a building that was donated to them by the owners.

“Getting that building was a blessing,” said Bourne, who said 95 per cent of the changes needed to the building were cosmetic. “I doubt we’ll come across another opportunity like that again.”

But Bourne is not giving up hope. He said he’s already approached a few neighbouring towns about the possibility of having the centre there.

He said he’s received positive feedback from those towns’ residents, who expressed shock that Victoria’s council even put the proposal to a plebiscite.

A notice had been mailed to the town’s 1,600 residents to inform them of the plan and to give them the opportunity to respond.

Bourne, who lives in Victoria, had only two weeks to try and convince residents that it was a good idea.

“Maybe if I had had more time to get the word out, to educate citizens, maybe there would’ve been a different outcome,” he said. “It was a short buffer zone.”

For now, Bourne said he will take time to focus again on the drop-in centre, but hopes more people will see the benefit of a transition house for everyone.

“Everyone says there’s a need (to combat the problem of opioid addiction), but it’s always ‘not in my backyard,’” said Bourne, who said this province is the only one in Canada with no transition house for people coming out of addiction treatment.

“It’s sad because Victoria could have been a big part of the solution.”

 

rmullaley@thetelegram.com

Twitter: TelyRosie

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