Pubdate: Thu, 24 Jan 2002
Source: London Free Press (CN ON)
Copyright: 2002 The London Free Press a division of Sun Media Corporation.
Author: Randy Richmond
Bookmark: (Treatment)


An agency helping hundreds of young people overcome addiction to drugs and 
alcohol is closing its doors amid charges of sexual harassment and 
financial mismanagement.

There's no truth to any of the charges, but the board of Maplewood 
Counselling has had enough, said chairperson Frank Smith.

"I'm glad it's over," Smith said. "We're closing as of Feb. 28. It's all 
going down the tubes."

The 10-year-old agency counselled about 300 youths a year for substance 
abuse and addiction.

Clients will have to look elsewhere for help and Maplewood's four 
counsellors and two administrative staff, including executive director Ross 
Townsend, will be out of work, Smith said.

Changing agencies won't be easy for Maplewood's clients, who have built up 
relationships with counsellors, Smith added.

"They're going to be hurt. There has to be trust there."

A Health Ministry spokesperson said London will not lose the funding given 
to Maplewood.

"The money will stay in the area and be reallocated to other programs," 
said John Letherby.

The agency gets about $400,000 a year from two provincial ministries.

Maplewood's caseload may be taken over by Alcohol & Drug Services of Thames 

The Thames Valley centre, which helps addicted people of all ages, has 
applied to the province to pick up the funding and clients of Maplewood, 
said executive director Linda Sibley-Bowers.

Whatever happens, people seeking help should call the Thames Valley centre, 
she said. "The community needs to know we will help no matter what happens. 
In the long run, there will be a youth programs available."

The transfer may take some time because few agencies have gone through this 
kind of dismantling, Sibley-Bowers said.

"It's a rare occurrence. It's a shame. The volunteers have worked very 
hard, I'm sure."

Maplewood's problems began last fall when some staff made allegations of 
sexual harassment, Smith said.

Those allegations were never proved, but the damage was done, he said.

Soon after, the Ministry of Health reviewed Maplewood's programs, Smith said.

That review discovered some "deficiencies in the administrative 
operations," Letherby said.

The review also suggested Maplewood had financial difficulties, said Stuart 
Murray, the board's treasurer.

Though an independent audit showed no problems, by then, board members were 
tired of the struggle, he said.

"There were seven board members running an agency with four counsellors. 
The only organization that works well that way is a rock band, which has 
four guys on stage and thousands behind the scenes."
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MAP posted-by: Beth