The Valley Hill Youth Treatment Centre, a 15-bed facility, was funded entirely by the provincial government and provides a six-week residential-treatment program for adolescents aged 12-17.
The Prince Albert Grand Council and Saskatchewan Ministry of Health worked closely with the Prince Albert Parkland Health Region in overseeing the treatment centre’s construction.
“We shared a common concern for the youth who are struggling with substance abuse,” PAGC Grand Chief Ron Michel said in a release. “This facility will provide a safe, caring and therapeutic environment that can provide positive changes in the lives of our youth.”
Youth of all backgrounds will be eligible for entry into the program. However, residents will be admitted through a referral process.
“It’s for young people really throughout the whole province of Saskatchewan, but by being located in Prince Albert, it is certainly more accessible to the young people in the north,” said Darlene Bessey, chair of the Valley Hill Youth Treatment Centre.
Operation of the centre will commence Sept. 13, at which time the plan is to have six youth admitted and gradually scale up over the subsequent weeks.
“There will be about 28 people who will be employed here at the centre,” Bessey said. “This is brand new. The staff are all experienced people, and it’s their first time working together.”
Bessey said the program will be a healing journey for young people, providing a holistic approach with respect to providing well-qualified and skilled addictions counsellors around the clock.
“As much as possible, it will be a sort of normalized environment with recreation and good nutrition,” she said. “We hope to provide great recreational opportunities. Children will come to know alternative ways of living.”
There will also be a community-outreach worker who will work with the youth once they get back to their home communities.
Norman Lewsey, the centre’s executive director, said having a program dedicated to youth is necessary.
“They’ll come in as victims and go out as survivors,” he said. “It’s an individual program, and we’re talking about a healing journey … so (the youth) understand that it takes a lot of work to heal.”
Lewsey noted that there will also be a classroom, which will allow residents to continue to with their schoolwork.
“If they haven’t been in school, then we’ll find out what they want to learn,” he said. “We want them to have some basic skills so that they feel better about themselves.”
The Ministry of Health invested more than $5 million in the construction of the facility, with an additional $1.88 million coming annually to cover operating costs.
An elder’s room and a prayer and ceremonial room are incorporated into the facility. Both are available to residents during their recovery.
Roger Carriere, executive director at the community-care branch of the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health, spoke to the reasoning behind opting to have 15 beds in the facility.
“There was a desire to increase the number of beds for youth treatment in the province,” he said. “Fifteen beds seemed like it would be a reasonable facility in having a sufficient number of beds for youth — not to be so large to be sort of an overwhelming institution.”
Carriere said there is the potential for a family-treatment centre to open in P.A. in early 2013. It will be primarily for women with children.