Alberta’s First Addiction Recovery Community Now Helping Dozens

by EditorK
Alberta's First Addiction Recovery Community Now Helping Dozens

The Red Deer Recovery Community in Red Deer, Alberta. (Courtesy of Red Deer Recovery Community)

Tara MacIsaac
Updated: August 9, 2023 

The first of Alberta’s 11 planned government-funded recovery communities opened its doors in May, and the long-term healing journey of its first residents is well underway, says executive director Russell Purdy.

People recovering from addiction can stay at the Red Deer Recovery Community for up to a year and do so free of charge. The standard for addiction treatment facilities before the Alberta government began its mass funding for recovery was about 28 days at a cost of $40 per day.

Many of the new residents at the Red Deer facility could not likely have afforded recovery at that rate.

“Over half of the residents that we have in care would self-identify as being housing insecure. It’s so great that we are able to provide that support for them,” Mr. Purdy told The Epoch Times. “Some of the residents in care say, ‘I came in here with nothing. I have nothing else. This is my home now.’ And they plan on staying for the full year.”

Mr. Purdy, who recovered from addiction himself in 2017, said the long-term stay is key to preventing relapse for many.

It gives them time not only to recover, but also to build the life skills needed to support themselves when they leave, he says. It also gives the centre time to connect those in recovery with the continued support they will need.

“It’s not just ‘Here’s a phone number, make sure you call when you leave,'” Mr. Purdy said. “We can actually get them into that habit of making those phone calls, connecting with those additional resources. They make those relationships before they actually leave our facility. So I think that’s extremely unique.”

The community had 42 men and 6 women as of Aug. 7, with more intakes scheduled in the coming days. The men’s program opened on May 15 and the women’s program opened on July 24. Mr. Purdy expects to soon reach full capacity, which is 75 spaces (50 for men and 25 for women).

Its programming rests on two pillars: a community-led approach and tailoring the approach to each individual by assessing “recovery capital.”

Individually Tailored

“I think ‘recovery capital’ is a term that people will start to hear more and more frequently as they discuss what the Alberta model is,” Mr. Purdy said.

Included are a person’s physical and mental health, vocational skills, financial and housing security, and spiritual wellbeing.

“Some individuals will have more recovery capital in certain areas, so they will progress quicker than others,” Mr. Purdy said. Some may stay for six months instead of the whole year. “We address each person as an individual, see what their needs are.”

Not all stories have a happy ending in this line of work, Mr. Purdy said.

“Some people are ready for the help and some people aren’t. And so it’s always hard when there’s not a positive outcome,” he said. “It reminds me how human we are, how fragile we are, and how fragile my recovery is, that I need to be vigilant and mindful.”

He said he focuses on creating an inviting and supportive space for others. Helping others has always been part of his long-term recovery and that’s part of the community-focused aspect of these new recovery communities.


The community-led approach has residents take a significant role in running the programs and helping each other.

“Under the guidance of our experienced staff, patients work together to become positive role models for one another,” says the Red Deer Community Centre website. “Adjustments to personal behaviour and responsibility for actions are both used for the betterment of the group, and patients eventually become an essential part of—and even leading—each others’ recovery.”

In the final stage of treatment, patients work alongside staff. Mr. Purdy said many are given leadership roles within the community.

Other Communities

A similar recovery community with a 50-person capacity will soon open in Lethbridge. Another is under construction in Gunn, northwest of Edmonton, with 100 beds.

The Alberta government will be working with First Nations to build one on Enoch Cree First Nations land near Edmonton and another in collaboration with the Blood Tribe in southern Alberta, about 100 km southwest of Lethbridge. On July 5, the government announced plans to build another with the Tsuut’ina Nation in the Calgary area.

Their construction costs about $20 million to $30 million each, and a total of 11 communities are being planned or are underway.


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