05/06/2015 11:54 EDT | Updated 05/06/2016 05:59 EDT

Quebec Welfare Cuts Worry Drug And Alcohol Rehab Centres

Drug and alcohol rehabilitation centres in Quebec are raising concern recent welfare cuts will drive clients away from getting the services they need.

Beginning May 1, people on welfare who stay in drug and alcohol rehab centres in Quebec will lose more than $500 off of their cheques. 

The monthly payout for expenses has been slashed from $747 to $200 a month for those recipients.

Quebec implemented the changes to the welfare system to save money.

Labour Minister Sam Hamad has defended the decision, saying that people who stay in those centres are receiving room and board. 

Hamad said the cuts apply to all welfare recipients staying in long-term care facilities and making an exception for people in drug and alcohol rehab would not be fair.

Addicts already opting out

Rehab centre operators have dismissed that argument, saying the changes will throw up a roadblock to addicts who are trying to get clean.

That's because many people have decided to either leave rehab or cancel their appointments instead of seeing their cheques reduced.

More than 300 people have done that since the changes came into effect, according to the Association Quebecoise des Centres d'Intervention en Dépendance, which represents 66 centres around the province.

Rehab operators say their clients have other expenses beside rent to think about as they try and get back on their feet.

"120$ a month, that is $40 dollars a week for basic needs like soap, shampoo, clothes," said Pierre Taschereau, general manager of Maison de Job in Quebec City.  

"These are people who have nothing."

He added that losing that money will increase the financial stress for clients after they leave the program, making a return to drugs or alcohol abuse more likely.

"We are talking about significant stress, insecurity, and a situation that could send people back to the starting point."

Murray Broman, head of the NuHab Centre in the Eastern Townships, which serves the anglophone community, is also worried about the long term impact.

"Clients that have been calling us to try and get into our centre for help, when we explain to them what was going to happen with the social assistance cuts, I had four people refuse to come in because they didn't think they could afford to do it," Broman said.

'I would probably have left,' former addict says

Christian Servant is a former drug addict in Quebec City who has been clean and sober for four years. 

He now works as a janitor at the Salvation Army in Old Quebec City. 

Servant went through the program at Maison de Job twice before he was able to get sober and doubts he would have made it if staying in rehab had cost him $500 a month.

"I probably would have left," said Servant. "I certainly wouldn't be working here and I would probably be dead. It's a simple as that. I would probably be dead."

Servant insisted that thanks to the Maison de Job he is now able to spend time with his two sons and four grandchildren with a fifth grandchild expected soon.


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