red ugg boots Mom warns of dangers of private treatment centres

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An Airdrie mom is on a campaign to raise awareness about private addiction treatment centres.

Helen Erickson’s son Cameron, 56, visited Serenity Ranch, located outside Red Deer, in March 2012 to overcome his addiction to anti anxiety medication. His mom said he came back $12,000 poorer and much worse off.

Angered over the situation, Cameron embarked on a letter writing campaign to the minister of health and local politician MLA Rob Anderson, who brought the matter up in the Legislature last fall.

Erickson said she received a letter in response from Minister Fred Horne that stated, because it is a private facility, Serenity Ranch is unregulated.

It isn’t the first time the treatment centre, which works mainly with those addicted to drugs and alcohol, has been in the news.

Taylor Argent, a 17 year old Red Deer resident, died at the facility in 2007 after drinking antifreeze he found in an unlocked shed. Staff at the facility reportedly waited 12 hours to call 911.

Kim Argent, Taylor’s mom,
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said the family chose the centre because of the long wait to get into a government run program. A two year inquiry revealed Taylor suffered before succumbing, something Argent said staff at the facility had assured her was not the case.

It nearly tore the mom apart.

“We lost him twice,” said Argent. “Thinking your son went to sleep peacefully and finding out he suffered and everyone just stood and watched . that is all you can think of. I want everyone to know there is no rules and regulations in place.”

Argent is frustrated the addiction treatment centre wasn’t charged and no changes have been made to legislation since the death of her son.

It is something the Argents, Erickson and Anderson want to see changed.

“You are dealing with people that are on the edge of life and you can’t leave that to choice and the whims of people,” said Anderson. “When people’s lives are at stake, when people are going to die . that is when the government should be involved.”

Anderson said he is frustrated at the lack of progress since addressing the subject in the Legislature last October.

“They seemed to say they would look into it, but I haven’t seen any proof . that they are doing that,” he said. “We are just going to keep hitting the government with it until they make some changes.”

John Muir, spokesperson for Alberta Health Services said the topic is a complex one, explaining several treatment methods, such as Alcoholics Anonymous and church counselling, would be difficult to regulate.

However, he said the province is looking at instituting changes, although there is no timeline in place for doing so.

“We are looking at extending provincial oversight into private treatment centres to better protect patients and their families,” he said. “In the meantime,
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we do encourage Albertans looking into privately run alcohol and drug treatment centres to research and carefully consider if that is the right place for them.”