House of Friendship adds capacity to addiction centre
By Paul Knowles
Waterloo Region’s House of Friendship operates one of the most diverse social service programs in the area. Through 20 individual programs, and a budget of $9 million, House of Friendship serves almost 45,000 people, employing 170 team members, and involving 1,000 volunteers.

But while the organization – which will mark its 80th anniversary next year – is meeting needs right across the spectrum of community challenges, there is no doubt that one has risen as a priority in the last year – the opioid crisis. House of Friendship has mobilized a number of programs to try to meet this need, but in recent months have realized that even their most current plans did not go far enough.

Less than a year ago, House of Friendship launched a capital campaign called “Close to Home”, to create a place for men’s residential treatment services. House of Friendship Executive Director John Neufeld told Exchange that the campaign was dubbed “Close to Home,” not referring to House of Friendship as “Home”, but reflecting the sobering reality that struggles with addiction are “close to home” for everyone. The campaign allowed House of Friendship to purchase a Cambridge facility that once housed Haven House, and to begin a plan to repurpose and renovate the building.

But Neufeld explains that even as the campaign unfolded, the need continued to grow. “Over the fall, while waiting on approval for provincial capital funding, we saw the need continue to grow, in the midst of the opioid crisis.”
It became apparent that the moment the new facility opened, it would be full, “without room to expand services in the future.” So Neufeld has announced, “We are compelled to dream bigger. We are now expanding our renovation plans to add an additional floor.”

A statement from House of Friendship says, “While the purpose of this facility continues to be men’s residential addiction treatment, as well as day treatment for men and women, this larger facility will allow us to be prepared to meet future needs.”

The new facility is expected to be ready for move-in in early summer of 2019. House of Friendship has now raised $1.6 million of its $2 million goal.
The expanded Cambridge project is not the sole program through which House of Friendship is taking on the opioid crisis. Last Fall, the agency received the largest chunk of $1.3 million in funding given to Waterloo Region, through the Waterloo-Wellington Local Health Integrated Network, as part of Ontario’s strategy to prevent opioid addiction and overdose. House of Friendship received $809,800 for programs including day treatment and outreach for pregnant women struggling with substance abuse; residential addictions treatment expansion and enhancement; and two new Rapid Access Addiction Clinics, intended to serve residents across the Region.

The Rapid Access Clinics are located in Kitchener and Cambridge, each staffed with an addictions physician, peer support worker and counsellor with expertise in community withdrawal management. Each clinic will operate two days a week within the two communities.

And in late March of 2018, it was announced that the House of Friendship and St. Mary’s Hospital will integrate addiction counselling services in a plan approved by the Waterloo-Wellington Local Integration Health Network. Addiction counselling services currently provided by St. Mary’s will be transferred to House of Friendship.

A release from the two organizations notes several improvements engendered by the development:

• “Ensuring that existing services are maintained while increasing the ability to meet the more complex and varied needs of our community;”

• “Increasing access to addiction counselling services for men, women and their families, within the Region of Waterloo, with the addition of Cambridge;”

• “Providing increased ability for service participants to transition between different services and levels of care;” and

• “Minimizing the duplication of services within our community.”

As of June 1, House of Friendship will now provide these addiction counselling services to men, women and their families within Waterloo Region who suffer from problematic substance abuse, including alcohol and drugs, as well as problem gambling.

“We’re looking forward towards working with St. Mary’s General Hospital to ensure continuity of care for counselling clients,” said Pam McIntosh, Addiction Services Director, at House of Friendship.

House of Friendship continues to be involved in community and social service, across the gamut of community challenges. As of last year, House of Friendship is the lead agency for the Family Outreach Program, providing services to families with children living with low income, in every municipality in the Region, both in the cities and in the townships. The goal is to meet needs, right across the region. “If you’re struggling,” says Neufeld, “where you live really doesn’t matter to us.”

Part of the Exchange Magazine KPMG Feature Section in the May 2018 issue of Exchange Magazine

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ISSN 0824-45
Copyright, 2018.