The alleged closure of an Aboriginal addictions treatment centre has shocked the Columbia Valley.

The Province recently reported that the First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) has shuttered their working partnership with the Three Voices of Healing Society (TVOHS) in Invermere due to a mismanagement of funds and problems within the organizations board of directors. However, The Pioneer could not reach the FNHA before it went to press on Monday, December 28th due to the FNHAs holiday hours of operation. The Shuswap Indian Band chief Barb Cote could also not be reached before The Pioneer went to press, as the Shuswap Band office is closed for the holidays until Monday, January 4th. The TVOH website and phones appear to be disconnected.

District of Invermere mayor Gerry Taft believes there were signs that indicated a possible problem existed shortly before news of the closure came to light in B.C.

The news is unfortunate because I think the service that is being provided is definitely needed and it did seem like good work was being done as far as the people who were in the program, said Mr. Taft, while acknowledging The Provinces story was the first official notice about the problem the district was aware of. We kind of heard some rumours and rumblings in the month of December prior to this story breaking, but we werent exactly sure what was going on.

Earlier this year in May, Invermere council unanimously (excluding Mr. Taft, who abstained from the vote due to a perceived conflict of interest after previously operating his Gerrys Gelati business at the venue) approved the decision to award a three-year contract to operate the Smoke Signals concession stand at Kinsmen Beach to the TVOHS to help those who have completed the addictions treatment reintegrate into the Columbia Valley community by gaining work experience.

Mr. Taft expected First Nations patients to begin working at the concession over the holidays as part of the after-care stream of TVOHS programming.

With the contract of the concession, we encourage the contract holder to operate during the Christmas season, said Mr. Taft. We kind of had a feeling that that wasnt going to happen because some of the contact people were unable to be reached and then this story came out, which probably explains a little bit more about why that happened.

Doug Clovechok, College of the Rockies (COTR) Invermere campus manager, expressed disappointment about the anticipated loss of the Aboriginal addictions treatment centre in the Columbia Valley.

Needless to say, were disappointed that the centre is closing because the work it does was phenomenal work, said Mr. Clovechok. We obviously worked with them in the after-care program, which was incredibly successful, so its a real shame that it has to close.

The Invermere COTR campus had previously offered a unique approach to learning for those who completed the addictions treatment program at TVOHS to study electrical, plumbing, pipefitting, machining, millwrighting and welding over a 12-week period of hands-on and classroom training.

Mr. Clovechok said the COTR would be willing to work with new groups for addictions treatment in the Columbia Valley in the future if one were to arise.

The centre itself worked very closely with the Shuswap Indian Band and we believe in the work that they do, and if another centre is to evolve from this, the COTR would be more than happy to work with them in their aftercare program because the program itself is really important work for those that are involved, concluded Mr. Clovechok. I think that its really important work.

The Pioneer will be following up on the allegations of financial mismanagement in the January 8th edition.