The History of Pacifica


No one who has ever suffered the agonies of addiction can ever fully understand the degree of degradation - physical, mental and spiritual - that addiction entails, but others can come close to comprehending what is involved, and still others can wish to do something to help with only a slight understanding of the addict’s situation. 

 1977 -- In the early summer of 1977 a group of public-spirited peopled formed the Fraser Valley Alcoholism Society in New Westminster.  The first board members were Mary Jane Mulligan, Ralph Muir, Brigadier E.G. Eakins, Joe Francis, Fred Bokenfohr, F. Bingham, Mrs. K. Stubley, Dr. C. Rodgers, and Dr. B. Monks. Those pioneering board members wasted no time in getting what became the Pacifica Treatment program up and running, and by the end of August, Jean Jordan was in place as Program Director, all the counselling staff were on board, and the official opening was set for September 15, 1977.

 Operations began on two floors of the YM/YWCA building in New Westminster.  The Initial therapy groups were co-ed and they received a miscellany of various lifeskills workshops, covering topics like assertiveness, values clarification, goal setting, yoga, as well as ongoing therapy groups.  Clients were charged $182 for the four week program -- $6.50 per day -- with the program being funded primarily by the Alcohol and Drug Commission.  By November there were 28 people in treatment.

1978-1979 -- At the Annual General Meeting on May 23, 1978, Jean Jordan reported that the program was going well, had operated to capacity for the past few months, and she was pleased with the excellence of the staff.  Unfortunately, Jean Jordan resigned as Program Director in October and Helen Dennison became Acting Director, until Dr. Tony Stickel became Director in November 1979.

1979-1980 -- With the program being a success and the Alcohol & Drug Commission raising the question of more beds, Pacifica felt the need to move to its own facility in order to accommodate the growing program.  For much of 1979 and 1980 the board’s focus was how to go about creating and operating a new facility.  A site was located at 8th Street and Royal Avenue and  an agreement was reached that a building would be constructed for the use of the Society.  Although it would not be owned by the Society, it would be furnished and leased for the use of the Pacifica program.  The building was constructed and the official opening was in September 24, 1980.  Along with the move from the Y came George Wong, presently Cook II, who has been with Pacifica since that time.

 Dr. Tony Stickel’s time with Pacifica was of short duration, and Helen Dennison was again appointed Acting Director when he resigned in 1980.   After many interviews, Dr. Pauline Grey was selected to become Pacifica’s new Executive Director, which she ably performed from July of that year until her resignation, 19 years later.

1981 -- In early 1981 the Pacifica employees started organizing to become unionized as part of the BCGEU.

Dr. Grey’s time with Pacifica was not only spent in running the program, but also included union negotiations with the BCGEU, meetings with the Alcohol and Drug Commission to obtain a guarantee that moneys would be forthcoming to meet the obligations of the union contracts.  This went on throughout the time that Dr. Grey was Pacifica’ Director.  

1982-1984 -- In June 1982, Pacifica was instructed to increased the daily rate to $11.50 by the Alcohol and Drug Commission. Later that year Pacifica’s contract and funding was switched to the Alcohol and Drug Program established as part of the Ministry of Health.  Client fees were again  increased in May 1984 to $375 and again in October to $395. 

1985 -- Towards the end of 1985 Dr. Grey met with the Regional Manager who encouraged her to submit a formal proposal to diversify the program by including a Senior’s component.  Judy Starr was hired for this program and along with Roy Adams the Senior's program was begun.  By all appearances, the program was a success, but unfortunately funding was not forthcoming to continue the program for another year.

The building at 811 Royal Avenue was not without faults.  Along with having to pay for all the needed repairs to the building, as well as taxes, utilities, and insurance,  we were required to pay an ever increasing lease agreement.  In 1985, the possibility of buying the building was considered and after lengthy negotiations, including an unsuccessful offer to buy the building, the lease was renewed for a further five years with no increase in the coming year, but increases in each following year.  This being the case the Board and Dr. Grey felt that serious consideration should be given to obtaining our own building.

1990-1991 -- At a special board meeting in 1990 the decisions needed to establish a new facility were outlined, and the board agreed to hire Dr. Ron Cutler, as a special consultant to coordinate all phases of the project, and by June 12 it had been decided to pursue the present site at 11th Avenue and Commercial Drive in Vancouver.

On November 30th, the lease had run out and Pacifica was required to vacate the building at 811 Royal Avenue.  The present building at 1755 East 11th Avenue was still under construction.  During this time the staff was sent out on various visits to other treatment facilities, out-patient clinics and detox centres. 

1992 -- Having no place to go to work the Pacifica staff met in the church hall of Our Lady of Perpetual Help in Point Gray where they planned and made changes to the program that would be at the new site.  Following the Christmas break staff were to resume work at the new facility in January of 1992. 

There was much preparation to be done.  Although the building was not yet ready for occupancy, staff worked out of the three offices and group room at the back of the building on the second floor.   The workmen were in all other parts of the building, carpeting was still being installed, painting was being done, carpentry was being completed, lighting and bathroom fixtures being installed etc.

The counselling staff met in the classroom to work out the program within this new facility.  Darkness would dictate when the day ended as there were no light fixtures in the group room.  Luckily the telephone lines had been installed - items and suppliers needed to be found.   

Members of the board were part of the furnishing selection committee.   During this time deliveries of furnishings arrived.  Every piece of  furniture ordered was carried in and assembled by the staff and set up in the designated rooms.  All the staff  worked together doing whatever was needed to facilitate the first admission March 8, 1992.  Mirrors were hung and beds assembled by the staff under the careful direction of Carl, our night attendant who knew how to use a level and read a blueprint.  Our able director, Dr. Pauline Grey, with the help of our counsellor, Leona Ransom, hung every picture you see in Pacifica.

There was much preparation for our official opening on March 20, 1992.  This was attended by Doug Mowat who played a large part in helping to get the GO BC grant for the furnishings, and was also asked to cut the ribbon..  The then Alderman Philip Owen spoke a few words of welcome.  Special thanks was extended to Ron Cutler who was the driving force that led the way to acquiring the new facility – the first successful attempt by a major alcohol and drug treatment centre in Vancouver.  Not to discount the many contributions made to this endeavour by the Pacifica board and the Pacifica staff – this was Team Work, with everyone working towards the same end, and a successful one it was.

1992-1993 -- Joining the Pacifica staff in May of 1992, Linda Miller was hired as Administrative Assistant and Denise Vike, who has been with Pacifica since 1981 became the Office Manager.   With regret, Celesta Wilson’s resignation was accepted in 1993.  Celesta had done her practicum at Pacifica in 1978 and was soon offered a counselling position, a position she filled for 15 years.  She moved on to an EAP position with Brown Crawshaw.

Early in 1993 Pacifica moved to a once a month intake rather than every two weeks as had been the previous practice.  This would allow the program to offer six Development Weeks throughout the year where staff could meet to evaluate how the program was going and to implement changes.  Also being a time for staff development, different workshops have been offered and this was also a time for some upkeep to the building that was not able to be accommodated when clients were in residence.

October 1993 was the beginning of  gender specific groups.  In the past, groups had been comprised of both men and women, now Pacifica was offering an all male group and an all female group.  An Open House was held on November 18, 1993 for all colleagues working with addictions to introduce them to Pacifica’s  new gender specific program. 

1994-1995 -- The end of 1995 saw the retirement of Camie Jolin, Cook I, who had been with Pacifica for 14 years.  Most clients will remember Camie as friendly, cheerful and talkative.  Camie’s retirement was closely followed by the departure of Helen Dennison.  Helen had been with Pacifica for 18 years, and her retirement was a sad time for many of us, as anyone who has met Helen, either client or staff, remembers her fondly.  One of her clients would appear at Christmas time for many years with a large bouquet of flowers for Helen.  She is presently happily retired and doting on her two grandchildren.  Judy Starr who has been with Pacifica since 1986 now became the Program Supervisor. Susan Stock joined the counselling staff.

1996-1997 -- In 1996, Leona Ransom, a counsellor with  Pacifica  since 1981 retired.  She has often returned to visit, and has often commented that she is “so busy, that she doesn’t know how she ever found time to have a full-time job”.  She remembers us each year with home made goodies at Christmas. Jim Thompson was hired as a counsellor in her place.

On November 20, 1997 Pacifica celebrated a 20 year anniversary.  We received a generous donation that allowed us to have a medallion designed and cast.  We are very pleased that we can offer these bronze medallions to all clients that complete the Pacifica program at minimal cost.  A great deal of preparation went into this event as each counsellor was assigned to display and explain some aspect of the program.  We covered the full four weeks of treatment, along with the admission process, family days, and workshops that are covered during this time. 

The years 1996 and 1997 featured increasing costs, largely due to union agreements over which we  had no control, minimal increases in government funding, and decreasing revenues because of the ADS policies governing referrals.   To add chaos to the confusion, the ADS was transferred from the Ministry of Health to the Ministry of Children and Families where it enjoyed a very low position on the priority list.

1988 -- Because of our financial position, the board established a fundraising committee to seek out ways of raising outside money.  After considering and rejecting a number of ideas, the committee decided to apply to the Gaming Commission to take part in a casino operation.  In April 1998 several members of the staff and two board members took part in a casino operation spread over 14 hours a day for two days.  

1999 -- Michael Doyle who had been with Pacifica over 20 years, sadly passed away on December 3, 1999.  The fountain in the courtyard was purchased in memory of Michael.  Michael was a Night Attendant whom clients and staff fondly remember for his great sense of humour and his many humorous log entries.  He was gifted with ‘a way with words.

2000 -- In early 2000, after 19 years as Pacifica’s Executive Director, Dr. Grey finally found the place of her dreams, a recreational park in the Cariboo.  The lure of the Cariboo far outweighed the impending interactions with the Alcohol and Drug Commission and the impending time-consuming and expensive accreditation process that program providers would have to undergo.   Dr. Grey’s resignation became effective April 1, 2000.

A selection committee of the board and others, interviewed a small number of candidates, and, in what has turned out to be a very wise decision, chose Kathy Oxner, then the Clinical Manager at the Aurora Program.

2001-2005 -- On September 2001 Roy Adams, a counsellor with Pacifica since 1978  retired after 23 years.  We took Roy on a Retirement Celebration Cruise as he commented during lunch one day that he had never been on a cruise before.    The retirement of  Thomas  Perera  followed  in  March of 2002.  Thomas  had been part of the initial counselling team hired in 1977 and remained with Pacifica for 25 years.

Kathy Oxner generated a number of changes that got alumni more involved in our program. In 2001 we had our first Alumni Holiday Celebration with a raffle, silent auction, speakers, music and great food. We also begin offering a weekly Alumni Support group in August.

In March 2002, Pacifica moves to three levels of treatment: Stabilization, Intensive Therapy and Transition. This innovation in our program supports clients early in recovery to be more prepared for the intensive program, and also helps those looking for support recovery housing after treatment. BCT/Social Ventures gets involved with Pacifica for three years to help launch the Women's Recovery Support Project. During this period, we also begin offering support groups for women struggling with addiction and a history of trauma -- "Continuing the Journey" and "Seeking Safety". We also begin offering 16 Step meetings. Our first annual softball game and BBQ is held at Trout Lake Park. Rick Dubras is hired as a counsellor from 2002 to 2007. In 2003, Fiona Jeyachandran began working with the "Continuing the Journey" workshops, began working as a casual counsellor in 2004 and started working full-time in 2006. In 2005 Jaret Clay is brought into Pacifica as Operations Manager, focusing on bringing us up to date and providing administrative support to Kathy Oxner. Later the same year, Kathy unexpectedly develops significant medical concerns, and reduces her involvement with Pacifica considerably.

2006-2008 --  Jaret Clay takes over as Acting Executive Director when Kathy Oxner's sick leave continues. In an effort to increase our funding, we beginning offering thirteen Level II groups a year and Level I clients are admitted on a continual basis. Our first groups spanning the Christmas season are offered. Paul Albert and Jon Contorines join the counselling team.

2009-2015 -- Kerry Dennehy is appointed Chief Executive Officer, and Jim Thompson becomes the new Program Supervisor when Jaret Clay accepts a position in Prince George as a hospital administrator. New counselling staff hired during this period are Helen Craig and Dawna Silver, both graduates of the Adler School Master's program.

Kerry expresses the vision of raising the public profile of Pacifica and addiction treatment -- promoting a positive, solution-focused and healthy view of recovery. In that spirit, he organizes "The Pacifica" -- an annual golf tournament in Whistler which has been very effective at fundraising every year since 2009. As well that year, he offered an benefit dance in the spring at the Vancouver Rowing Club. In December of 2010 Kerry gained corporate sponsorship to book the newly renovated Vogue Theatre for "Pacifica Beat - a concert of hope and recovery" with three great musical groups.  Keep an eye out for new innovative fundraising ideas.

In 2012, we moved into another new phase of our life as a treatment centre. Vancouver Coastal Health asked for a program that was 12 weeks long based on research showing improved success rates for those dealing with addiction. It took over a year to create and fully integrate a series of changes to address this request, and we are really excited about the results.

June 19, 2013 long time president of our board of directors, Norm Duncan, died. We dedicated our main classroom to his memory and renamed it Norm Duncan Hall.

In July 2014, after years of planning, we finally moved to being a non-smoking facility. Clients continue to smoke tobacco off the property, but there are now programs and resources in place supporting reducing, replacing or quitting tobacco.

Spring of 2015 saw the beginning of a major renovation of the building shell to deal with water damage. The project is expected to be completed by the end of summer. In a timely coincidence, thanks to support from BC Housing, we now own the title to our property.

Kerry Dennehy is stepping down as CEO of Pacifica in August 2015. Its been an era of growth, renewal and change, and much gratitude and appreciation goes to his contribution.

 Looking to the future -- In over three decades, the team at Pacifica have worked with more than 12,000 clients. We've collected some great memories, witnessed some amazing transformations and overcome many difficult challenges over those years. With the support of our sponsors, board of directors, volunteers, staff and the clients and their family members this point in our history can be the beginning of continued growth and improvement. We hope you will join us for the journey.