Dealing with addiction during adolescence is complex. Consequently, AARC’s program and its leadership have occasionally been the focus of criticism. Allegations regarding connections to other treatment programs, the qualifications of AARC’s staff, its unique treatment processes, access, cost and abuse can be found in digital and traditional media. These allegations were most notably covered in a Fifth Estate broadcast (the “Broadcast”), aired by the CBC in February of 2009.
As a result of this broadcast, AARC has filed a statement of claim in Alberta Queen’s Bench Court against the CBC, three CBC reporters and four ex-clients (The “Action”). AARC maintains that it has discredited all allegations of wrongdoing contained in the Broadcast and is proceeding to trial to recover damages for the losses AARC has and continues to suffer as a result of the Broadcast.
CBC has removed the Broadcast from their website. The Action was filed on the grounds that the former clients fabricated their statements and the CBC breached its professional and ethical code of Journalistic Standards and Practices by recklessly and irresponsibly airing a Broadcast without proper fact checking, deliberately omitting contradictory evidence, and deliberately misleading the audience for the purpose of obtaining viewership. One of the ex-clients has subsequently filed an affidavit saying that he lied to the CBC and made untrue and inaccurate statements about AARC. Despite the removal of the Broadcast, the allegations first aired in this context continue to manifest in various ways. As a result, the stigma of such allegations continues to trouble AARC and hampers the important work that the organization does every day.
AARC has coined the phrase “business as unusual” to describe the treatment of severely addicted adolescents and their families. AARC treats high risk youth in crisis. AARC is able to successfully treat the majority of clients that enter the program. The AARC model was developed through a five-year Ph.D. study. The AARC Descriptive Research (Vause 1994a) determines specifically what makes AARC successful. The descriptive study assessed the clients’ and staff’s perceptions about the attitudes, opinions, conditions and procedures which make recovery possible. The study clearly validates that the AARC program has had a substantial impact on clients’ recovery.
A recent study, “Effective Approaches to Adolescent Addiction: Evaluation of the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre (AARC)” (2019) led by academic researchers, Dr. Amelia Arria and Dr. Ken Winters, noted that AARC incorporates evidence-based assessment tools and several behaviour change strategies that provide an impressive model of a long-term, comprehensive, semi-residential treatment program. In the context of the published outcome literature, the proportion of AARC graduates who were abstinent from drug use is impressive – 73% of AARC graduates in the study were abstinent 12 months post-treatment and 59% were abstinent 24 months post-treatment.
In addition, a 2004 study “Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre – An Outcome Evaluation” led by Dr. Michael Patton confirmed that a majority of AARC’s graduates surveyed were clean and sober and that 48% of graduates remained continuously sober since completion of treatment. The study noted that there was a significant improvement in all measures of recovery for graduates, including education, employment and family relationships.
Both studies confirm that over 80% of the youth who entered treatment completed their treatment at AARC. The Arria and Winters study states that “treatment completion is an important predictor of outcomes, namely long-term abstinence from substance use, and any program that can produce high retention rates is likely promoting positive outcomes.” “A Unique Model for Adolescent Addiction Treatment: A Description of the Alberta Adolescent Recovery Centre” (2017)
However, in some cases clients that do not complete the AARC program or that complete the program and return to active addiction, can blame AARC for their troubles. A small group of such individuals have seized on the allegations contained in the Broadcast and other information, to disseminate damaging falsehoods through various media.
It is particularly noteworthy that:
- AARC is fully licensed as a Residential Addiction Treatment Service Provider under the Mental Health Services Protection Act in the Province of Alberta.
- AARC’s accredited program is delivered through a strict governance model that employs independent oversight and written grievance procedures.
- AARC is required to renew its accreditation every 3-4 years. Renewal of accreditation is a long and arduous process that requires full review and transparency of its model, records, policies and procedures, on-premises inspections as well as private client, staff and board interviews. AARC just completed its accreditation renewal and was awarded a 3-year extension in late December 2019.
- In addition to intense oversight, as mentioned above, AARC also validates its model and results through third-party research, e.g. Patton 2004, Winters/Arria 2017, 2019.
The most current outcome study and methodology
2017/2019 Winters/Aria research
can be reviewed by following the link below.
To review the 2004 Patton study follow the link below2004 Patton study
- AARC promptly addresses all allegations of wrongdoing, whether they are alleged to have occurred before or during treatment, and where warranted by referral to the appropriate authorities.
- AARC does not engage with those making accusations or unfounded claims on websites, forums, chat rooms or social media accounts.
- Alberta's judicial system and Calgary Police Service (CPS) are regulated and open systems to any citizen who has a complaint or believes they are a victim of a crime. AARC has cooperated and will continue to fully cooperate with any allegation that is brought before it by the CPS, government bodies or the courts and will operate within that fair and public framework.
- Over the last twelve years AARC, its Executive Director, staff, clients, families and alumni have been the subjects of consistent defamatory, violent, sensational and vulgar abuse, harassment and allegations both online and through traditional media channels such as print and broadcast. Across all means of communication, these claims have been positioned as being true without any credible or supporting evidence. AARC has been left no option other than to pursue legal measures to end this harassment through the legal system and to attempt to recover some small portion of the substantial damages that it has suffered. An example of this work can be demonstrated by a retraction received in the Spring of 2019. A defendant in a legal action filed by AARC posted allegations online of AARC's role in a murder, a remark that was picked up and repeated by "credible" local news sources. As part of a legal settlement, that person later agreed to provide a retraction confirming that the online statement and accusation had no merit or truth.
The agreed retraction can be reviewed at the link belowRetraction
- Recently, the harassment against AARC and its staff has escalated from online harassment to physical confrontations of staff at private residences and attempted “swatting” incidents at our facility. AARC has taken the necessary measures to provide support and safety to its staff and clients in partnership with the Calgary Police Service and will take appropriate legal action in response to any further harassment online or in person.
AARC's primary purpose is to support and treat adolescents suffering from addiction and their families. That comes with the full understanding that given the nature of addiction, this type of unwanted attention is part of the disease of addiction and the fallout that follows in its untreated wake. AARC has been successful because its clients and families have been successful in finding freedom from addiction for close to 30 years. Although not all who have entered and graduated the program have remained sober, the majority have and are active and contributing members of society and the communities they live in. They have been given the gift of choice and the opportunity to live free from addiction. It is for this reason that AARC continues to operate and will continue to defend its right to do so despite any challenges or harassment it may face.