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Grand Forks Mayor going to alcohol and drug rehab

Hoguin, Cuba; Photo, submitted

Grand Forks Mayor Brian Taylor is going to an alcohol and drug rehabilitation clinic, no, not in Vancouver or Victoria, in Cuba. Taylor leaves for Cuba on Feb. 28 for a ten-day tour of their world-renowned rehabilitation clinics in Holguin, 470 miles east of Havana. The clinic’s international reputation gave Taylor the idea that perhaps this service could be an opportunity for economic diversification in Grand Forks.

“I’ve connected with a group that works for the Cuban government and I am relying on them to set me up with contacts in this area so far they’ve got two or three locations lined up,” said Taylor. Taylor may not be able to visit all the locations, but he hopes to bring back information about how they operate, what sort of training their employees have, the mix of addictions being treated, how the patients in the clinics receive treatment and how much they are able to explore outside of the clinics. Taylor said that the clinic’s main customers come from South America and even the United States. He believes that this is an indicator that if there is an excellent model of service for drug and alcohol rehabilitation people will travel to access the clinic.

Quinqué means oil lamp in Spanish, but in this case "El Quinqué" stands for the name of one of the Holguín International Drug-Addiction Rehabilitation Clinics. For more than fifteen years, the clinic, located six kilometers away from Holguín City, has carried on a tenacious and quiet fight against drug addiction. According to Cubanacan Tourism & Health, they have pieced together an efficient assistance system for the complete rehabilitation of drug-addicted persons, laid out in three-month programs and under the streamlined therapeutic community approach in which company experts help patients to come to terms with themselves and kick out their addiction to drugs and alcohol for good.

Led by a multidisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, psychiatrists, social workers and physical educators join hands to help patients change their lifestyles with the participation of relatives. In addition, they assist those patients to get their foot in the doorway of a new social life linked to work, study, recreational activities, sports and culture.

The therapeutic community eases change transition through self-help in each and every stage, paying close attention to the growth and maturity of the personality and the behavioral reencounter that leads patients to get over drug addiction in a healthy and sound atmosphere surrounded by a top-quality healthcare system outfitted with state-of-the-art technology.

Taylor said his interest in the idea was peaked when he heard that the clinics are run in small towns similar to Grand Forks. In B.C., most of the rehabilitation clinics are located in the major centres of Vancouver and Victoria. “Large community drug treatment programs are the norm here,” said Taylor. “I don’t think you can name a small town in B.C. where there’s a drug treatment program (outside of First Nations communities.) We tend to put drug treatment programs either way away from everybody or in big cities. I think it’s interesting to see what they can do in a small town.”

With a cost of over $15,000 US, the treatment programs are not cheap. There is no government subsidies for the treatment centre, said Taylor, so it is a money making venture. Some of the costs include: evaluation, clinical tests, hematological tests, screening tests, lodging, food, and airport transfers as well as psychotherapeutic treatments customized to each particular case. From 1990 to 2000 414 patients were treated in one clinic including the famous soccer idol, Diego Maradona, who went to the program in 2000 to kick his habit. The program is a non-god based process that is different from the usual 12-step program found in North America.

“In terms of Grand Forks’ future, the possibility of providing a regional drug treatment program is catching on as an interest,” said Taylor. “A lot of seniors are developing addictions to prescription drugs, but I don’t know how that will factor into it. I’m interested in the age range that they are treating.”

Taylor is paying for the trip from his own pocket entirely. “I’m not the kind of person who likes to lie in the sun - that just doesn’t appeal to me - if I’m going somewhere I want to do something. So this offers me a chance to connect with other government officials,” said Taylor.

Taylor will be presenting the information he gathers to Interior Health Authority on his return as well as to council and any community groups who may be interested.

“This is a preliminary trip. If it looks like its worthwhile there could be another more in depth visit. It’s not going to happen with me just going down there to see. I hope I can get people interested in looking at this possibility for Grand Forks,” said Taylor.