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Elora rehab centre continues to help youth in recovery

Portage Ontario has made some adjustments, such as quarantining new residents and incorporating video conferencing in light of the pandemic

ELORA – A substance abuse rehabilitation centre for youth is continuing to operate despite any difficulties the pandemic has presented. 

Portage Elora treatment centre has been in the region for decades and would have celebrated its 35th anniversary this month. Ashley-Ann Maginnis, manager of development, said it was hard to realize they wouldn’t be able to celebrate this milestone but needed to turn their attention to how to operate.

“During the pandemic, all of the sudden we had youth that wanted to be admitted,” Maginnis said. “We had to stop that because of the restraints that the province put on.”

The rehab centre serves youth aged 14 to 18 with substance abuse issues who come from across Ontario. Typically a resident lives on-site for six months before moving on to a two year aftercare program. 

Maginnis said they have adjusted their operations slightly to bring in new residents. They acquired two large trailers that have been broken up into five dormitory rooms each. One trailer is for new residents so they can quarantine for fourteen days. 

During this time, Maginnis said they can still start the program and continue schooling through video conferencing. 

The second trailer is to isolate residents as a precautionary measure in case of an outbreak. Maginnis stressed there haven’t been any cases and they have a strict screening process for their staff.

“Every morning we go in, we see our nurse to have our temperature checked and we fill out a medical questionnaire in regards to any ill feelings we might be experiencing,” Maginnis said. 

Maginnis said when the pandemic started there was a lot of anxiety among the young residents but staff assured them precautions were being put in place to protect them.

“Our nurse and clinical staff did a really good job to explain the issues … and what we need to do to keep ourselves safe and keep our staff safe,” Maginnis said.

Visits by family were also suspended which was another point of anxiety but changes to their IT infrastructure allowed them to establish video conferencing to keep in touch with family. 

Maginnis said a further challenge was with their aftercare program. She explained typically clinical staff would be able to go into the community to set-up meetings for youth in the area. The pandemic meant these meetings had to stop, which Maginnis described as very challenging.

“When they go back into their homes and normal community, they’re faced with a whole bunch of different challenges,” Maginnis said. “They don’t have the same type of support that they necessarily had here.”

Aftercare therapy sessions have been able to continue through zoom video conferencing that has been designed for use by Canadian health care professionals. Maginnis said they can do this from the safety of their homes and their parents can participate in the sessions as well. 

Maginnis said Portage wants everyone to know that they’re still operating and working through any challenges presented.

“Even with the pandemic, we’ve found solutions to be able to continue serving the youth in Ontario who need our assistance.”