Whether in Guelph, Port Elgin, Ottawa, Kitchener, Toronto, or anywhere else in Ontario, Christy Kolb travels on a weekly basis to meet with the youth who are in Portage Elora’s Continuing Care Program. As a reintegration counsellor, Christy supports graduates of the residential drug rehabilitation program for an eighteen month period, as they transition back into mainstream society. This is one of the most challenging and fragile periods in the rehabilitation process, as new values, behaviours, and attitudes get put to the test in an outside environment.
An important element of Christy’s role is to orient youth with local resources. “There are six areas we look at and help plan before we discharge a client,” explains Christy, “living situation, education, hobbies and recreation, counselling, employment, and group support meetings.”
There are about 250 youth in Portage Elora’s Continuing Care Program at this time, a caseload that Christy shares with her colleague George Pothos. Constantly thinking of new ways to support Portage graduates, Christy dreams big. She hopes the number of reintegration staff members will increase in order to help better manage the caseload, and even envisions Portage building a reintegration house in the future for graduates who need to maintain closer contact with Portage once they have transitioned from the residential program.
Christy believes that all kids deserve an opportunity to turn their lives around and that, with the right support systems behind them, they can excel. “Youth with addiction issues deserve a chance,” she states, “so that they can go on to become contributing members of society. It is really important they know that we believe in them.”
Seeing youth succeed at Portage and learning about their success after graduation is the best part of Christy’s job. “Hearing from the parents is also very rewarding,” she adds. “Hearing them say, ‘I have my daughter or son back’ makes it all worthwhile.”
Christy, who studied social work and sociology before attending teacher’s college, began working with Portage Ontario three years ago as an intake worker. Since then, she has also taught art therapy and yoga as a part of the centre’s recreational programming before transitioning to her current role as reintegration counsellor.