Addiction Canada failures show everyone loses when public services underfunded

The labour ministries in Ontario and Alberta have received a total of 155 complaints from workers owed money by Addiction Canada, or its predecessor company, Vita Novus. Workers in Ontario are owed $516,821, while workers in Alberta are owed $75,873.

Ottawa (21 Oct. 2016) —  The criminal charges, workers going unpaid, worried families, and other problems arising from the operations of Addiction Canada are a direct consequence of underfunding public services.

Underfunding public services drives people to for-profit organizations

Addiction Canada described itself as “the largest fully private treatment organization in the country.” Like other private health care facilities, it was able to attract clients  because the underfunding of public services has created lengthy wait lists for treatment in publicly-funded facilities. And as in many other private health care facilities, people needing both treatment and workers suffered.

While Addiction Canada closed its facilities this month, the problems are far from being resolved. Lack of funding and lack of regulation mean there is good reason to fear those problems will be repeated elsewhere.

“People needing drug and alcohol rehabilitation and their families are rarely in a position to do detailed research on treatment providers,” said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). “Quality public services are needed so people have places to turn to that they trust to provide the necessary level of care and that are accountable for the treatment they are providing."

Company owner charged with defrauding clients and drug trafficking

In May, the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) charged company owner and CEO John Haines with 5 offences:

  • Defrauding people who came to Addictions Canada for treatment of $6.1 million
  • Making over $11,000 in false claims to the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long- Term Care Drug Benefit Plan
  • Drug trafficking
  • Possession of property obtained by crime
  • Money laundering

Two company employees are also facing charges after an OPP investigation into allegations that Addiction Canada used fake doctors at two clinics.

All of these charges raise serious questions about the care Addiction Canada clients received.

Workers in Ontario and Alberta owed almost $600,000 in wages

The labour ministries in Ontario and Alberta have received a total of 155 complaints from workers owed money by Addiction Canada, or its predecessor company, Vita Novus. Workers in Ontario are owed $516,821, while workers in Alberta are owed $75,873.

A number of claims for unpaid wages are still under investigation so the amount workers are owed is likely to increase.

Treatment fees beyond reach of many Canadians

Addiction Canada charged people $20,000/month. That’s beyond the reach of most Canadians. Even many of those who can pay that much for treatment are only able to do so by going deeply in debt.

Private, for-profit facilities unregulated

One reason for the issues with Addiction Canada is that private, for-profit addiction treatment facilities are unregulated. As one media report pointed out, unless they are receiving provincial funding, in Ontario all they need is a business license.

Addictions and mental health need to be part of mainstream health care system

A recent NUPGE policy paper, No Health Without Mental Health: The Way Forward, pointed out that mental health services, including addiction treatment, are “outside of mainstream health care.” Both the lack of regulation and underfunding for addictions and mental health are linked to that fact.

“When 1 in 5 Canadians will experience a mental health or addiction problem, a piecemeal approach is inadequate,” said Brown. “The serious charges arising from the investigations into Addiction Canada are yet another reminder of why federal government implementation of the Mental Health Strategy is long overdue.”

Protecting vulnerable Canadians requires adequately funded public services

"Like other health care services, drug and alcohol rehabilitation needs to be publicly funded and publicly provided," said Brown. "The problems with Addiction Canada show there are too many ways private delivery of drug and alcohol rehabilitation can harm the people who need it, their families and the people delivering the services." 

NUPGE

The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE

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