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Community collaborative raising money for new addiction treatment program

It took Hughie Carpenter years to address the childhood trauma at the root of his drug addiction. Now, he hopes a new program in downtown Windsor will help others struggling with substance abuse do the same.

The 52-year-old Windsor man on Thursday helped kick off a fundraising campaign for Recovery Education for Addictions and Complex Trauma (RE:ACT) at All Saints’ Anglican Church. The addiction treatment program is being organized by the Downtown Windsor Community Collaborative (DWCC) to address the city’s need for more addictions services, and needs $150,000 to begin.

Instead of treating symptoms of addiction, the 90-day outpatient program aims to address past trauma, which is often at the root of substance abuse issues.

“When (the Children’s Aid Society) took me as a child and I ended up in group homes, the people that were there introduced me to a drug world that changed my life,” said Carpenter.

He’d felt isolated, and unwanted by his parents, he said.

“I was living in a fantasy.”

Today, Carpenter is 20 years sober and works as a peer support worker with The Initiative: Glengarry Neighbourhood Renewal. If he’d had access to a program like RE:ACT when he was struggling, it would have “absolutely” helped, he said.

Bob Cameron, executive director of the DWCC, said his group is organizing the RE:ACT program so people can access addictions treatment when they want it.

“This provides an opportunity for folks to move into treatment and care immediately, or much quicker,” Cameron said. When people have to wait for help, their “passion” for recovery drifts.

If the DWCC can raise $150,000 by September, volunteers and counsellors trained to deliver the RE:ACT program can begin sessions in October, Cameron said. The program’s pilot project will start with a cohort of 15 clients, and include one-on-one counselling and group therapy. What makes the program unique are classes on understanding addiction and complex trauma, one taught at an introductory level over 30 days, and the other more advanced for the following 60 days.

“Almost every addict experienced dramatic, traumatic experience as a child, and it’s playing out in negative ways and behaviours as adults,” said Cameron.

All Saints’ Anglican Church is donating meeting space for the five-day-a-week program, keeping its overhead costs low, Cameron said.

RE:ACT first began as a pilot program in Winnipeg, Cameron said. There, its co-ordinators had seen such success that they brought it to Surrey, B.C. Before Windsor volunteers and counsellors begin holding RE:ACT sessions, individuals from Winnipeg will visit and train them.

“The need for increased programming is immediate,” said Tamara Kowalska, a member of the Windsor RE:ACT program’s steering committee, and co-ordinator of resident engagement at The Initiative: Glengarry Neighbourhood Renewal.

Through her experience co-founding the Windsor Youth Centre, Kowalska saw first-hand “that people who suffer with addiction are suffering,” Kowalska said at the RE:ACT fundraiser kickoff. “They are in pain.”

“The community at large has deteriorated much in part to the increased substance use and addiction in our community,” she added.

“This is a program that absolutely, and I know the network of services available, fits very nicely within those services,” Kowalska said. “It can supplement the other addiction treatments we have in our community. It can also provide addiction treatments for those who are on waiting lists for other programs, and it can provide further support for those coming out of programs.”

The $150,000 fundraising goal will pay for one year of programming, and pay for two counsellors.