For 25 years, the Peardonville House Treatment Centre in Abbotsford has provided a way out of the mire of addictions in a safe, home-like atmosphere for more than 3,000 women, including many with young children.
"There are so few programs specifically for women, and we are the only one with a licensed childcare centre, as far as we know, in British Columbia. We have some very good outcomes from the program," said Milt Walker, the executive director of the women's treatment centre since its inception in 1987.
The centre held its silver anniversary and barbecue on Saturday afternoon with approximately 150 former clients, therapists and other workers in attendance, along with Health Minister Mike de Jong.
"I can hardly believe it has been 25 years," said Walker, who for the past 29 years has also been the executive director of Kinghaven, which for 41 years has provided addictions treatment services for men in Abbotsford.
Before Peardonville House was established, the only treatment centres for women were Aurora House and the Salvation Army's Homestead in Vancouver.
"If you were a woman living in the Fraser Valley, the only choice was in Vancouver," said Walker.
Once Kinghaven was in operation, women began calling for help and it became evident a women's treatment facility was also needed, he said.
With seed money from the Ministry of Health and service groups, they went to work.
The former Peardonville School at the corner of Huntingdon and Peardonville roads was vacant and for sale. The Kinghaven society purchased it, renovated some buildings and mobile trailers, and opened the centre in 1987 with 18 beds.
"Then in about 1992 the Ministry of Health asked if we would start a women and children's program (to provide treatment for mothers with young children)," Walker said.
Peardonville society exchanged six of the adult beds for six children's spaces and added a fully licensed daycare for preschool children, "and that's when we realized we were running out of space."
The old school was demolished around 2000 and three new buildings were built to accommodate offices, therapy rooms and two residential clusters.
Peardonville House today has a capacity for 26 adults who must be 19 or older, and eight children, who must be under school age. These women are in the 10-week intensive therapy program.
Later a 90-day stabilization and transitional living program was installed in an empty caretakers' house, called Molly's Place on the two-acre site.
This holds four bedrooms for women who are not yet ready for the more intensive treatment program, said Walker.
Then last year, another piece in the treatment continuum was added.
Again, at the request of the health ministry, this time through the Fraser Health Authority, Peardonville House was asked to make room for two detox beds. The detox program is part of Fraser Health's Riverstone mobile and home detox project for Fraser Valley east.
It also includes two detox beds at Kinghaven, said Walker. People can stay up to a month in the residential drug withdrawal program.
"We have services from detox to stabilization to full intensive treatment. It seems to be working very well. A lot of our detox clients are successfully moving into the other programs," said Walker.
Peardonville House employs up to 30 people including skilled therapists, has around the clock care with regular visits from two doctors, a full range of recovery treatments and a Nobody's Perfect parenting skills program for the moms who have children on site and for those whose older children may be at home with family.
Most of the women are from the Lower Mainland, with 20 per cent coming from other areas of B.C.
Peardonville House operates with funding from Fraser Health, the Ministry of Housing and Social Development, and donations from the Soroptimist International, which has supported the centre for 25 years, Abbotsford Rotary, Abbotsford Lions and several other funders.
Walker looks forward to another 25 years of success.
"We have very many women who come back as alumni who are enjoying happy healthy lives," he said, adding 50 to 100 former clients have come to past reunions.
"They come back really to encourage the women who are here, to show them they can have good lives. It's a very courageous act for these women to come in for treatment," he said.
- For more information on Peardonville House, visit them online at www.peardonvillehouse.ca.