Partnership improves addiction program

Nanaimo Region John Howard Society and Surfside partner on new Vancouver Island Therapeutic Community program.

Men struggling with addiction can access an affordable treatment program this fall thanks to a partnership between two Nanaimo non-profit organizations.

The Nanaimo and District Surfside Society and Nanaimo Region John Howard Society are partnering to create the Vancouver Island Therapeutic Community program.

“I’m quite excited,” said Leslee Banks, Surfside Society chairwoman.

The four-month residential substance abuse program for men focuses on peer support and accountability, which involves group therapy sessions and the development of independent living and interpersonal skills. People can refer themselves or be referred by other agencies.

France Tellier, director of programs for the John Howard Society, said it teaches people how to identify thinking errors and helps them understand what took them down the road of addiction so they can change their behaviour.

The four-month program will have a bigger impact than Surfside’s current 42-day, because the longer a person stays in a recovery program, the longer they stay clean and sober.

“We hope it’s going to stop the revolving door of treatment,” said Tellier.

Affordability is a key component designed for low-income individuals.

“Both agencies have the belief that there needs to be addiction treatment in Nanaimo that is affordable,” said Tellier. “There is private treatment, but most people can’t afford that.”

Surfside’s existing program for men at Surfside Recovery House on Rosstown Road has operated since 1985. It ends this September as the new therapeutic program begins.

Banks said the alumni program at recovery house, which involves former clients holding weekly meetings to support and encourage current participants, will continue.

Banks said Surfside wanted to expand the program and partner with the John Howard Society to access their experience in therapeutic programming. Like many other non-profits, Surfside has also struggled with funding issues due to cutbacks.

Under the new co-operative model, the John Howard Society will handle staffing and the program. Details are still being discussed, but Surfside hopes existing staff will transition to work in the therapeutic program.

Surfside will continue to own the facility and remain a non-profit charity in charge of improving the facility.

Both organizations are  seeking donations to upgrade the house. To donate, please call Banks at 250-714-4359 or Tellier at 250-754-1266.

For more information on the Vancouver Island Therapeutic Community program, please go to