Home Editor Picks New Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre opens its doors

New Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre opens its doors

New Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre opens its doors

The modern building with soaring ceilings and plentiful light has 30 beds for youth seeking treatment: 15 for women and 15 for men.

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Nearly four years after the death of Ottawa philanthropist Dave Smith, the new youth treatment centre that was his long-time vision has opened its doors.

The long-awaited opening of the $21-million Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre in rural Carp was celebrated Thursday by those who worked on it and in it, along with some who have benefitted from it.

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“Dave Smith is not with us today, but you can feel his presence in many ways,” said Derek Johnston, vice-chair of the organization’s board of directors.

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Smith, who died in 2020, was an Ottawa icon. He opened Nate’s Deli on Rideau Street in 1950 and, later, The Place Next Door. He raised more than $150 million for charitable causes during his lifetime.

The youth treatment centre became his life-long passion. It began as a day program in a building on Bronson Avenue in 1983 and eventually moved to the Carp area, where women and men’s residential programs were housed in separate buildings.

Smith dreamed of a “state-of-the-art, purpose built, world-class facilities where world-class services would be provided to youth who are struggling with substance use and mental health issues,” Johnston said at the opening celebration Thursday. Looking around, he added: “This place is stunning.”

Mike Beauchesne Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre
Mike Beauchesne is executive director of the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

Executive director Mike Beauchesne added: “Welcome to the place where hope becomes reality, where stigma shame and judgment stop at the door.”

The modern building with soaring ceilings and plentiful light has 30 beds for youth seeking treatment: 15 for women and 15 for men. It will include space for new programs, including a workshop and eventually a horticulture program, as well as for family support. The new space expands the centre’s capacity by 25 per cent, which should cut wait times, officials say, and it brings all the program’s services under one roof.

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Alexandra Rodrigues checked in to the Dave Smith Treatment Centre in 2016 at a time when there were few positives in her life. She said her life was marked by broken relationships, an inability to reach her goals, no emotional control or communications skills.

Working with therapists at the centre helped turn things around for Rodrigues, now 28. What she learned has stayed with her, and her time at the youth treatment centre helped instill healthy habits and passions. She now works as an artist.

“I now sell my art and have created a life that I wake up to every day with joy,” she said.

Among those who have worked to help get the new building open are Cindy Manor, director of philanthropy, and her son, Hunter Knight, who was treated there while battling alcohol and cocaine addiction during his teens. Knight became friends with Dave Smith and visited him on his death bed. During that visit, Smith asked the young man to see through his dream of the modern home for the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre.

Clients are scheduled to move in over the next few weeks.

Youth, who come from across Ontario, can remain at the centre for up to three months, and they continue to be supported for three months after leaving the centre.

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All clients at the centre struggle with substance use disorder, and 85 per cent of them have used substances for more than three years. Clients also deal with multiple mental-health issues.

After treatment, the majority of clients have report increased overall life satisfaction along with improved physical and mental health, better family relations and quality of life as well as an ability to meet substance use goals, the centre says.

Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre Carp
The grand opening of the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre took place Thursday in Carp. Here, Dave Smith’s widow, Darlene Smith (centre) and daughter, Sharron Smith (centre right in light blue jacket) are joined by centre executive director Mike Beauchesne (centre), past client Alexandra Rodrigues (purple dress), director of philanthropy Cindy Manor (third from left) and others to cut the ribbon. Photo by JULIE OLIVER /Postmedia

Ottawa Police Service Deputy Chief Steve Bell, who chairs the centre’s board of directors, said the program’s approach worked.

“I have seen first-hand the transformative power of providing help and resources to young people facing challenges with substance use disorders rather than resorting to punitive measures through our court system,” Bell said.

The community share of the provincially funded project is $4 million, with $1.5 million still to be raised through a fundraising campaign.

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