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‘I have a new life’: View Royal rehab community a success amid drug crisis

New Roads Therapeutic Recovery Community proves value of spreading unique model

For much of his life, Joshua Ritch has been in and out of prison for crimes he admits he committed to fuel his drug addiction.

It was a cycle of drug abuse, homelessness, bank robberies, prison, getting clean, and repeat, which seemingly had no end in sight.

Then, after hitting his rock bottom late in the winter of 2022, he found out about the New Roads Therapeutic Recovery Community in View Royal. He successfully applied for the program and started his journey to real recovery in January.

“I spent a total of 11 years in a federal institution,” said Ritch. “Prison never helped me, but now I am here … this program is really a fresh new beginning. I’m 45, but I felt more like 50, 60 coming into it. Now I just feel fresh and young again, like I have a new life in front of me with so many options.”

Ritch has progressed through the program’s phases and is nearing the end of its nine-month minimum program length. Beyond his success in kicking his addiction and building the skills he needs to live a healthy life as a free man, he has become a leader within the recovery community.

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“I have complete confidence in my success once I leave. I’ve never had confidence in my life for anything, but with this program I really do. Self-confidence, confidence in my recovery, everything,” he said. “It feels good. A lot of my peers saw the whole change in me … and once I started hearing it from other people, I noticed it in myself.”

That community support is one of the many things that makes New Roads’ program special. As its name suggests, it’s less a centre and more a small community.

The men who participate in the program – which can range from nine months to two years depending on the needs and wishes of the resident – go through the traditional detox and counselling common with most other rehab programs. They also come to rely on each other for everything from cooking and cleaning, to gardening and keeping chickens and honeybees.

The large facility may have originally been built as a youth prison – and a small section still operates as such – but it has been renovated to include several gyms, an art room, music and puzzle room, manicured gardens and more. And during the personal time sprinkled in throughout each day in between counselling and work sessions, the residents are free to do as they please within it.

Through this, they learn to have confidence in themselves, each other, and learn a wide variety of skills designed to help them thrive when they return to the public sphere.

“When we look at who we are serving, and we look at the complexities of who we are serving, the idea of having a significant impact on them in 30, 60, or 90 days, it just doesn’t make sense to me,” said program director Cheryl Diebel. “We are not just asking them for sobriety when they leave, we are looking at their financial issues and helping them with that, we are looking at their emotional issues and helping with that … When they leave here, we are able to make them whole in many different aspects of their lives, and they are able to have better success. We can only do that through long-term treatment.”

But as much good as the facility and its program does for the men who go through it, there is still more that needs to be done. That’s why Our Place CEO Julian Daly invited media to tour the facility his organization operates on Thursday (Sept. 14).

“We are really trying to convey to folks the importance of recovery and what recovery really is,” said Daly. “We are in a very dark time in terms of the drug and opioid crisis in our society, and often it feels like it is really hopeless with nothing that can be done. We really believe recovery is one of the answers, it’s one of the few things that really works.”

There is another layer to the need for more. The facility only treats men at this time, but Daly and his team are working to change that with new funding.

He said there is a “desperate need” for a similar facility and program for women on Vancouver Island, and the existing programs on the mainland are hard for women to get into in this region.

Daly said Our Place has a funding application with the government to create a 20-bed facility and program for women, and they expect to hear back sometime in November on whether that application was successful.

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