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St. Joseph's Care Group

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Giving Back at Balmoral Centre

Balmoral Centre
Balmoral Centre

Date: 2019-09-17

Clients and families lead making the outdoor space at Balmoral Centre match the approach inside

Surrounded by tall trees on a quiet street in the heart of the city is St. Joseph’s Care Group’s (SJCG) Balmoral Centre. Operating 24-hours per day, 365 days a year, the 22-bed Centre is a safe place for adults aged 16 and over to come for medically-supported withdrawal management from alcohol and drugs. The average stay is about three to five days - a short-term crisis measure that is the often a door to further services elsewhere, either at SJCG or at one of the many programs in the city and further afield.

A couple of years ago, the Centre’s Client & Family Partners wondered what could be done to make Balmoral Centre more welcoming. “The landscaping outside was minimal. All the landscaping was tired and sparse, and the deer had damaged the existing cedar trees.” says David Lake, a Registered Nurse and Clinical Supervisor at Balmoral Centre. It didn’t take long for an idea to take shape - a Beautification Project to match the exterior of the building to the good work being done inside.

A former client with a construction business volunteered the use of heavy equipment, and 10 former clients and families picked out landscaping materials, hardy shrubs and other plants. Over the course of two days, the volunteers breathed new life into the grounds. “First impressions have an immediate effect on the way a person thinks,” notes Shawn, a former client who helped with the project. “I hope that by adding some colour and [making] an inviting space where the clients can spend time outside, it will help them see that people truly care about their well-being.”

Clients access Balmoral Centre’s services in a number of ways. They can contact the Centre directly, be referred by another organization, or can, under certain circumstances, come in directly by police or paramedics. In the first 24 hours, clients are supported in an observation area on the first floor, where staff monitor their well-being to ensure safety. In the days that follow, clients who are medically able move to rooms on the second floor where they also receive education about addiction and speak to a counsellor about their immediate plans. “This is crisis service and we also provide some educational programming. It’s really about what can we do for you today, and in the next few days, to make sure you are safe in the withdrawal process and are able to move back into the community,” says Darcy McWhirter, Clinical Manager of Crisis and Outreach Services. “We can connect you with community resources, support you in connecting with safe and sober friends or family, and help you galvanize your support system within this small timeframe.”

Emily Jones, a counsellor at the Centre, agrees that it’s all about first steps. “This is the foundation of their journey. We talk about what they want to do first. Some people come in and are looking to abstain, so together we look at those treatment options. Other people are looking at harm reduction, and we will support them in that.” Making harm reduction supplies (like clean needles and emergency opioid overdose kits) available, talking about safe ways to reduce use and increasing awareness about contaminated substances are also part of the conversation.

“Balmoral Centre supports the medical and the non-medical side of withdrawal, and both are critical components to recovery,” says Darcy. “Our view is that it’s most beneficial to have both available to allow individual choices. The ability to be supported with medications and also have a human connection from a counsellor, case worker or another support - is so important. And when clients come here and they’re welcomed and they’re appreciated in terms of the fact that they took their first steps, it’s life-changing for people.”

For Shawn, being part of the Beautification Project made a difference. “It made me feel good to be around like-minded people who are interested in helping someone along their path to recovery,” he says. “I’m just happy to give back to the people and places that helped me along in my recover, when and where I can.”

Quick Facts about Balmoral Centre
  • September is Recovery Month.
  • Balmoral Centre offers withdrawal management services, and can be the first step in the journey to recovery.
  • The average stay is 3 to 5 days.
  • Balmoral Centre averages 2,400 visits per year.
  • Growing demand for withdrawal management currently exceeds service capacity.
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Supported by: The North West Local Health Integration Network of Ontario