Community, stakeholders wrestle with push back against rural treatment centre
FORT SAN, SASK. -- Some in Fort San, Sask. are pushing back against the idea of treatment facility coming to town, despite a local property owner’s desire to lease piece of land to the centre.
Indian Head’s Pine Lodge treatment centre was devastated by a fire at the end of last year. James Archer wants to lease the land he owns, the former Prairie Christian Training Centre in Fort San, to the centre.
“There’s been some discussion around the term residential care facility and if that fits our proposed operation or use of the property,” Archer said.
Pine Lodge’s executive director, Foster Monson, said the location is under community zoning and allows for residential care facilities.
“We are a residential care facility, we don’t have any medical personnel of any kind on staff, we have no doctors, nurses anything like that,” Monson said.
Monson and Archer are concerned over pushes to label Pine Lodge as a heath care facility, which the land is not zoned for.
CTV News has reached out to the office of Fort San Mayor Steve Helfrick for a comment, but have not heard back.
FORT SAN RESIDENTS DIVIDED
In a private Facebook group called ‘Resort Village of Fort San’, which was recently created on Jan. 17, many voiced their concerns both in favour of and against the facility’s move to Fort San.
CTV News has obtained several posts from the private group.
Sharon Desnomie posted in the private group to voice her concern that a post she shared in favour of the treatment facility was blocked from the group.
“I posted last night ‘treatment centres are basically a place of healing, I totally support it!’ Administrator of this open forum didn’t let it get posted,” Desnomie wrote.
Desnomie spoke to CTV News, saying that the existing treatment centre in Fort San supports local businesses – such as grocery stores, garages and hair dressers – and trade services, like electricians plumbers and septic services. Desnomie thinks a second facility would benefit the local economy, and provide jobs to counsellors, maintenance staff, cooks and teachers.
“The issue in question is the intended property use was not for this,” a resident wrote to Desnomie in response. “There has been no transparency in this process, and the people in the village have a basic right to that, and to ask the questions and get answers.”
CTV News has learned some Fort San residents have signed a petition against the facility leasing the land. CTV News reached out to some residents involved, however, the individuals have not responded.
PINE LODGE WORKING AGAINST STIGMA
Archer said since the Leading Thunderbird Lodge runs successfully in the community, he fails to see why another treatment centre would be problematic.
He said some Fort San residents brought their concerns about potential crime and safety to a public information session. He feels the those seeking treatment are taking steps to better themselves. He referenced that Pine Lodge has been operating for 35 years without detriment to the community.
“I think there’s a misconception that the people that are seeking these services are active drug users or will be using drugs or alcohol in the community,” Archer said.
The executive director of the facility told CTV News he believes roughly half the village is against temporarily housing the centre in the community.
“I’m absolutely really surprised and I’m really disappointed, because I would have thought that mental health and addictions, this stigma would have been long gone,” Monson said.
With the treatment centre in Indian Head closed following the fire, the centre cannot accommodate 43 people for treatment.
Monson believes the Fort San lease would be a temporary solution, but is unsure of a timeline as he’s still waiting to confirm the extent of the fire damage to the facility in Indian Head.
Monson said they chose the Fort San area because it’s close to Indian Head.
Archer said council is expected to vote on whether to allow the proposed use of the site on Tuesday.