02/06/2013 09:53 EST | Updated 04/08/2013 05:12 EDT

Closed for nearly a year, Cape Breton addictions centre given OK to reopen doors

HALIFAX - The lone addictions centre for men in Cape Breton is preparing to reopen its doors nearly a year after shutting down during a controversial government review.

The provincial government said Talbot House in Frenchvale will welcome residents as early as April.

"We know that the people of Cape Breton have been anxious to have this issue resolved, and so have we," Health Minister Dave Wilson said Wednesday in a news release.

The rehabilitation centre closed its doors after 53 years last March in the middle of an organizational review by the Community Services Department, which then discontinued the facility's funding.

The review, launched after a complaint from a former resident, concluded the facility hadn't been operating in compliance with provincial standards. The board of Talbot House vigorously challenged the review's findings.

The department issued a request for proposals to operate a recovery house in Cape Breton, and later extended the deadline to give Talbot House more time to apply. Talbot House emerged as the only bidder by October's deadline.

In a release, board chairman John Gainer said the board was "profoundly grateful" for the support it received from the community, the centre's residents and the provincial government in its efforts to reopen the facility.

The opposition Progressive Conservatives, however, said the government dragged its heels on the matter for too long.

Community services critic Keith Bain said Wednesday it's been a hardship for vulnerable people seeking help for addictions over the last year.

"It's too bad that it took a year to reach where we are, but that's behind us now," Bain said from his constituency office in Big Bras d'Or.

"I think the most important thing is the residents that Talbot House has served and will continue to serve."

Oversight of the province's recovery houses was shifted to the Health Department from Community Services last October.

Bain said he hoped the move would improve relations between the board of Talbot House and the government.

"The whole situation was totally mishandled and the residents were the ones who suffered," he said. "Hopefully this will be the right direction."

Founded in 1959, the non-profit facility hosted men aged 19 and over from across Atlantic Canada. Its methods ranged from group and one-on-one discussions to acupuncture.

Unlike programs that use the synthetic opiate methadone to treat withdrawal symptoms, Talbot House required abstinence from drugs and alcohol. It was the only facility of its kind in Cape Breton to offer a long-term, methadone-free approach to recovery.

Wilson was not immediately available for an interview, but said in the release that the government wanted to ensure Talbot House was the right fit before making a decision.

"We needed to take the necessary time to ensure that an appropriate and suitable solution for Cape Breton was in place," he said.

The government said it will provide $392,000 to operate the independent, non-profit facility. It said Talbot House provides housing and support for up to 21 men.

As well, the government said it was accepting proposals from the province's five recovery houses for one-time funding of $52,000 to be used for training, administrative costs and minor improvements.

It said Talbot House and two Halifax-area facilities have already been granted funding.