Thursday, March 27, 2014

BIG POSITIVE NEWS: Recovery Movement Endorsed by United Nations

A resolution on the importance of recovery proposed by the United States at the 57th session of the Commission on Narcotic Drugs (CND) was approved on March 21st in Vienna, Austria.

This resolution marks the first time in the more than 50-year history of the global anti-drug regime that the concept of recovery was formally accepted and supported by United Nations Member States.

Acting Director of National Drug Control Policy Michael Botticelli said: “This is a historic moment.  For too long, the recovery movement has gone without a voice in the global conversation about drug policy.  Talking about recovery, exchanging experiences and programs, and sharing successes at international forums like the Commission on Narcotic Drugs is a critical part of a public health approach to preventing and treating substance use disorders and reducing the global drug problem. The resolution codifies the commitment of countries to decrease the stigma associated with substance use disorders and to address them like other chronic health conditions.”

Mr. Botticelli further noted his appreciation for the support for the resolution provided by many nations, including Australia, Canada, Germany, Italy, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom, and also for the assistance and advice provided by the many American and international non-governmental organizations that were present in Vienna for the CND.

The resolution, entitled Supporting Recovery from Substance Use Disorders, recognizes that substance use disorders can result in chronic relapsing conditions and that recovery support initiatives help to prevent relapse, facilitate re-entry into treatment when needed, and promote long-term recovery outcomes.  The resolution also calls for an end to stigma, marginalization, and discrimination against those in recovery; promotes international exchanges on best practices related to recovery support initiatives; and encourages the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) to disseminate globally information about evidence-based recovery support initiatives.

The resolution, which was co-sponsored by a number of countries, was approved at the UNODC meeting on Friday, March 21, 2014.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


I wanted to copy the entirety of this excellent piece from  the Vancouver Courier, but I'm experiencing some cyber-difficulty on this file.

Therefore, please click on the above link and read this very revealing item as is.

The Courier dug back into their archives and have shared with us a 2003 story about the extraordinarily rapid growth of Portland and the already many questions that needed to be asked about financials and governance.

For the provincial government and its many-armed tentacles to claim that there is nothing to look at before 2010 is disingenuous at best and butt-covering at worst.

When legitimate Recovery and Prevention programs with proven track records of success have struggled daily with paying the bills and providing access to services, why would a government give this particular unknown group of people this much money this fast and this blindly?

Monday, March 24, 2014


The email and statement of principles shown below lay out the mandate and direction for the interim Board of the Portland Hotel Society.

Looks good.

But a few inconvenient questions might be asked.

Amidst all these marvelous services that PHS is providing, what are the futures for these initiatives:

- wine making lessons  for drunks

- polka dot dispensing machines for 25 cent crack pipe kits

- free needles (Apparently PHS bullied  their way into cornering the market)

- methadone (Corruption follows methadone wherever it goes. Will this be examined?)

- Insite (Reduce many shooting booths to one? Send actual referrals to actual recovery programs?)

Sent to all PHS from Faye Wightman, former head of the Vancouver Foundation.

Good morning everyone,

As Chair of the interim Board of Directors for PHS, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all staff of the Portland Hotel Society for your patience during this transition period. I recognize that this is a very difficult time for everyone and I want to reassure you that the interim board is committed to preserving the services and programs that are in place, and respecting the values and culture that makes PHS so unique and essential in the community. Members of the interim board include:

• Faye Wightman, current member of BC Housing Board of Commissioners

• Andy Broderick, VP Community Investment, VanCity • Craig Crawford, VP Operations, BC

• Dr. Patty Daly, VCH Chief Medical Health Officer

• Ida Goodreau, former – VCH President & CEO

• Sandra Heath, current VCH Board member

• Glenn McCurdy, SPV CEO Bouygues Energies & Services Canada

• Jim O’Dea, Terra Housing Consultants

I would also like to introduce Dominic Flanagan, BC Housing’s Executive Director of Supportive Housing and Programs, as well as Anne McNabb VCH Director, Inner City Mental Health & Addiction Services. With direction from the Interim Board, Anne and Dominic will work closely with the management team and staff to ensure continuity of services to the tenants and clients of PHS.

The interim Board, in consultation with BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health, have endorsed a number of principles that will help guide this transition period. These principles are attached below for your reference.


Faye Wightman, interim Chair PHS Community Services


BC Housing and Vancouver Coastal Health are committed to the following principles, which will guide Board and management direction and decision-making with respect to the operation of PHS Community Services during the interim period of Board and management transition:

• Preserve services and programs that are currently meeting client needs and outcome objectives

• Respect for the values, culture and expertise of PHS in serving clients who are in need of care and services

• PHS staff consultation and input into decision-making is paramount

• Continue to foster and support innovative approaches to address the needs of client populations

• Freedom to express different views without fear of reprisal

• Establish good governance structures and processes

• Make PHS operations financially transparent, accountable and sustainable and fiscally responsible and prudent

• Set PHS on a course for independent governance and management at the earliest reasonable opportunity

Thursday, March 20, 2014


Photos: Lavish dinners and pricey hotel stays? 13 jaw-dropping Portland Hotel Society expense claims


Between May 21 and 23, 2012, transactions totaling $2,694.95 were noted for the Disney Resort Grand Anaheim. The receipt detailed a hotel reservation for two adults and two children. PHS management stated a hotel room was upgraded to accommodate a staff member in poor health as staff appreciation. Through further inquiries, IAS found the staff member noted was one of the PHS directors.

Photograph by: Scott Brinegar, Vancouver Sun Scott Brinegar

The PHS has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable expenses for vacations, limos and overseas trips, with little financial oversight, poor documentation and a host of other financial irregularities, according to government auditors. Here’s a few of them.

Between May 21 and 23, 2012, transactions totaling $2,694.95 were noted for the Disney Resort Grand Anaheim. The receipt detailed a hotel reservation for two adults and two children. PHS management stated a hotel room was upgraded to accommodate a staff member in poor health as staff appreciation. Through further inquiries, IAS found the staff member noted was one of the PHS directors.

Photograph by: Scott Brinegar, Vancouver Sun Scott Brinegar



Portland Hotel Society audit finds hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable expenses


Health Minister Terry Lake discusses the financial reviews by the Province and Vancouver Coastal Health of the Portland Hotel Society, in Vancouver, March 20, 2014.

Photograph by: Nick Procaylo, PNG

VICTORIA – The Portland Hotel Society has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in questionable expenses for vacations, limos and overseas trips, with little financial oversight, poor documentation and a host of other financial irregularities, government auditors announced Thursday.

Two audits, conducted by the Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and B.C. Housing, paint a picture of lavish expenses for Portland Hotel Society managers and directors, at a time when the society — charged with operating many services for the Downtown Eastside’s at-risk population — is teetering on the verge of financial trouble and potentially unable to pay its debts.

The society received $28.6 million from the health authority, government and other public sources in 2013, to operate services including the supervised injection site and low-income supportive housing for more than 1,000 people.

But auditors say money was being spent without proper oversight or financial controls.

The leadership team of the Portland Hotel Society — Mark Townsend, his wife Liz Evans, Dan Small and Kirsten Stuerzbecher — chose to resign after the government gave the team an ultimatum earlier this week. Townsend said they were given “a stark choice” to either step down or fight a legal battle that would the society into receivership.

Managers and directors expensed more than $69,000 over three years on restaurants, and more than $300,000 on travel to Vienna, Paris, Istanbul, New York City, Los Angeles, Banff and Ottawa, among other locations.

Other expenses included:

- $678 for limo service for 11 people from the Fairmont Pacific Rim to Grouse Mountain and then to a PHS director’s house. Auditors said a PHS executive charged $8,658 to the limo company in 2013.

- $2,695 for two adults and two children to visit Disneyland in Anaheim, including hotel rooms. Auditors say a director of PHS took the trip.

- $1,600 a month for office space inside executive director Mark Townsend’s home, charged to PHS, as well as upgrades to the space.

- $5,832 for a cruise by a PHS manager, made on a personal credit card and expensed back to PHS as a gift with a handwritten note.

- $917 for a staff baby shower.

- $7,025 for a celebration of life for a deceased employee.

There were also hotel rooms expensed of up to $880 per night on trips to the United Kingdom and Austria, including flowers, alcohol and spa services billed.

“The nature of expenditures incurred by PHS are a serious concern as they are not reasonably in line with providing programs and services,” read the Vancouver Coastal Health Audit. “There is a significant lack of supporting documentation for expenses, particularly on credit card expenses.”

Overall, the PHS is in a “weak financial condition” in 2013 and could have trouble paying its obligations if they came due, auditors found.

Speaking in Vancouver on Thursday, Minister of Health Terry Lake said an interim board has been put in place made up of senior staff from Vancouver Coastal Health, including Dr. Patricia Daly. The board will oversee restructuring and will recruit a new management team “as soon as possible” he said.
Lake said he did not believe the problem to be systemic, but could not say for sure whether audits would show similar misuse of spending at any of the other services contracted out by the province.

“There are a lot of service providers out there. BC Housing works with over 700 projects throughout the province and I can tell you the vast majority do excellent work and are highly accountable and this just has not been a problem across the system,” he said. “This is an exception that we feel compelled to correct.”

Lake said the government was aware that there were spending concerns among management at the PHS over many years, but he said it took time before the government could take action.

He assured taxpayers that the 700 other organizations are being well run.

“We do look at all the financial statements of all the projects with BC Housing and when problems are identified you do more work. And this is a process we have followed. Certainly the vast majority are exemplary,” he said.

Sometimes it’s just a misunderstanding. So we work with them and try to clarify their roles and responsibilities and when that behaviour doesn’t change, based on more information a deeper financial audit. When those concerns are validated and the concerns are even higher than thought you have to take action. Again I think this is an exception to the rule rather than something that is systemic.”

Lake did not know whether a criminal investigation would be launched by RCMP into any of the “questionable” misuse of public funds, and said the government has no immediate plans to recoup the financial loss.

“Our main concern is to make sure we can provide services to the vulnerable sector of our society, and in terms of recovering money that would be secondary at this point. We want to put all our efforts into this transition.”

Among the expenses listed in the audit, the $1,600 a month for office space inside Townsend’s home is particularly concerning, given that someone is spending money on something that is not required, said Lake.

He characterized that spending as “inappropriate” and “unethical,” adding that the money should have been used to help people.

Although the society’s books show a $3.9 million surplus in the last fiscal year, that was only possible because of a one-time $6 million sell-off of an investment, said auditors.

The society would have run a $2.07 million deficit in the last fiscal year if not for that one-time cash infusion, according to the audit, and it was in overdraft for $113,843 and had drawn $1.2 million in operating lines of credit and a business loan.

The B.C. Housing audit also found “significant differences” between the salaries some employees were supposed to be receiving as in their offers of employment and what they actually received according to their T4 income tax records.

Housing Minister Rich Coleman said the dismissal of the board and executives “will allow us to avoid the costs involved with court action and move quickly to address the financial and operational issues that threaten the programs and services delivered by the society.”

The society operates several buildings owned by BC Housing, including the Washington Hotel, the Ranier Hotel, the Roosevelt Hotel, the Beacon Hotel and the Sunrise Hotel. But it lso runs several social services includinga Downtown Eastside bank, a food service that feeds people in single room occupancy hotels and a pest control service.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014


Marshall Smith is the Director, Corporate Development & Community Relations at Cedars at Cobble Hill Residential Treatment Programs.

Speaking with Brian Lilley on the Sun News Network today, Marshall coined a lovely new phrase.

He said that "vending machine health care" is not appropriate.

Well said.

Watch the whole interview: