Ian Rabb with his dogs Samson and Ariel. (photo from Ian Rabb)
After falling prey to the habit himself, being rescued by his family and brought back home to Winnipeg for recovery, Ian Rabb began giving back – not just to his supporting family and the Jewish community, but to the greater community of Manitoba.
Rabb knew how the system worked from personal experience, had learned its flaws and, after recovery, set about to fix it.
“What I noticed then was a broken system in Manitoba, where there was no continuity of care,” said Rabb. “People didn’t have the ability to have extended stays in any kind of stable environment and, as I started doing my research and working in the program, I was appointed to the board of directors of the Addictions Foundation of Manitoba.”
With help from his brother, Jeff, Rabb determined that the biggest problem was the lack of a safe house where recovering addicts could take their time and realign their lives after completing their residential treatment program, which comprises a couple of weeks of rehabilitation. He opened Two Ten Recovery, a men’s house of recovery, as well as Destiny House for women. Today, there are three homes with a total of 33 beds.
“Our aim is to help people stabilize their lives and get them back to being fully self-supporting citizens, having a better prognosis or outcome when they leave,” said Rabb. “We allow them up to two years in our homes, where they have to be working and self-supporting within three months. Our success rate is at about 83%. What we’ve learned over the last number of years is the longer we can stay connected to someone post-treatment, coming out of a treatment centre, the better our success rates will be.”
It was six years ago that Rabb began hatching a plan to open a 24-hour, full-service drug and alcohol rehab centre. Once the Addictions Foundation closed their detox clinic, it became clear that a detox centre was also needed. Aurora Recovery Centre was established.
“I realized one thing very early on – that there was desperate need for a medical detox program where anyone could access medical services at any time, for any substance, and be provided with a service that would help them get off that substance, ultimately moving to the next step, addiction treatment,” he said.
Another thing that was critical in Rabb’s mind was to eliminate the wait time. “You don’t have time to wait when it comes to addiction treatment,” he said. “When someone’s ready for treatment, they need to be able to access a treatment facility. That doesn’t exist here. There’s months-long wait.
“All across Canada, because of the epidemic of addiction, even private centres are having severe wait times. So, ultimately we’re scrambling for places to send people when they need immediate help.
“The best centre in the world is just south of us, in Minnesota.
It was the first one ever started. Our model (at Aurora) is replicating the Hazelden model of addiction treatment.”
Aurora Recovery Centre is located on 28 acres of land along Lake Winnipeg, just north of Gimli. It will start as a 76-bed primary care centre, with 16 beds devoted to medical detox and emergency situations.
“We will be able to handle the ongoing problems here in Manitoba and hopefully will be busy enough to expand,” said Rabb. “We have lots of acreage there. We’re opening smaller with the plan of creating a full campus.”
To manage the centre, Rabb hired Peter Connelly, a Manitoba-born and -raised clinical director who has worked at the Minnesota Hazelden recovery centre for the past 13 years.
“I really believe that more services are needed, not only in Manitoba, but also in Canada,” said Connelly. “It’s an exciting project. It’s going to provide people who obviously need help with programs, so that’s really my reason for coming back. I certainly have a passion for recovery.”
Apart from the detox unit, which Connelly views as critical, his focus will be on the continuum of care, as he believes that after-care is of vital importance – the available services once clients have completed their in-patient treatment.
“The reality is that in-patient treatment is very difficult,” said Connelly. “It’s about people making a change, about people learning the tools of recovery and taking these tools into the outside world and using them to deal with life, on life’s terms.
“Addicts, alcoholics, need structure. They need to take responsibility and be accountable. Once they finish in-patient treatment, those are the challenges they face, so after-care is critical.”
This is an area that Aurora aims to focus on, with a number of programs that aid patients, including the option of extended-care programming, sober-housing on site, and continued follow-up with clients after they leave the centre.
“We will be developing an extensive out-patient program, so those who’ve been through the program can continue having group sessions and individual counseling after they leave,” said Connelly. “Through a number of programs that we’re developing and have developed, we’ll have clients come back yearly for an annual reunion.”
The facility is privately funded; participants and/or their family members will need to pay for their treatment. But, the cost is all-inclusive, with no added fees. “At the end of your stay, you certainly won’t be getting a bill for additional charges,” said Connelly. The cost is determined on a case-by-case basis, dependent on treatment and other factors.
At Aurora, the aim will be to have no wait time. “This is critical,” said Connelly. “We all have a tendency to procrastinate and the addict/alcoholic has a tendency to change their mind. When someone finally makes a decision they need to go, or a family member helped them with that decision, we need to get them into treatment as quickly as possible.
“As we move forward, I think people will see that the programming we offer is certainly needed. We’ll see what kind of relationships develop from there.”
Aurora began accepting patients on Oct.16. For more information, visit aurorarecovery.com.
Rebeca Kuropatwa is a Winnipeg freelance writer.