There’s a new addictions counsellor at the Lighthouse, and she goes by the name of Leanne Murdaugh.

“She’s very respectful and kind,” says David, a client of Leanne’s, who visits the Lighthouse almost every day to connect with Leanne.

Lighthouse Addictions Counsellor Leanne Murdaugh

David recently moved out of the Lighthouse and into a home in the community after staying temporarily in the shelter’s stabilization unit, which provides a safe place to stay for people who are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Prior to the Region’s Better Every Day14 Day Challenge, the unit was open only at night, but as of March 2, it is now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week as part of a pilot project aimed at reducing emergency room visits by those seeking services that the unit can provide.

“The stabilization unit is a safe, non-judgmental place for people to go,” says Leanne, who provides addictions services in the unit alongside a case manager. “Having the unit open 24 hours a day keeps our clients safe. They know they can come here and lay down if they need to, rather than having to go to the hospital.”

A familiar face to the Lighthouse, Leanne worked in the stabilization unit, as well as the men’s and women’s shelters, for a year as a case manager prior to accepting her current role as addictions counsellor.

“One thing that’s really important for people who have addiction issues is a familiar face and a connection with someone they trust,” says Leanne. “Our clients already know who I am. They know our stabilization unit staff, and our nurse and nurse practitioner, so they’re comfortable and are able to come to us with some of the things they’re dealing with. As a team we can refer them to the appropriate care.”

Having an addictions counsellor onsite means that Leanne does not have to refer as many clients offsite for treatment in the community, where wait lists can exceed four to six weeks. Since the expansion of the stabilization unit, her recovery group numbers have increased, more than doubling on some days from six to 13.David and Leeann

“I’ve got a lot more people coming to recovery group now, and I think it’s because they’re already in the building,” Leanne noted. “Instead of having to get up at 7 a.m. and leave the unit because it’s closing for the day, they’re sticking around to sleep and eat breakfast, where I can chat with them. It’s easier to connect with clients and to refer them to treatment because I’m not running around looking for them.”

Leanne is not the only one who has noticed a positive impact on the clients who are accessing expanded services at the Lighthouse.

“I see a difference in the clients,” says Dave Thiessen, Lighthouse general manager. “They’re happy and excited, and seem proud to live here and have access to all of these services.”