About Portage


Montréal, November 16 2015 – During National Addictions Awareness Week, which runs from November 15 to 21, Portage is putting the spotlight on the challenges that women face with regards to getting help with drug addiction. Many women who suffer from drug or alcohol dependency have been victims of abuse, violence, or unhealthy relationships and their drug use is often closely tied with these struggles. Women, and more particularly mothers, face discrimination, prejudice, and stigmatisation with regards to their drug problems, and often hesitate to ask for help as a consequence.


The UN World Drug Report 2015 states the unfortunate reality that although one in three drug users are women, they represent only one in five people in drug treatment. In addition to a general lack of appropriate rehabilitation services for women, poverty, prostitution, violence, stigma, and, in some cases, the fear of losing custody of their children are among the obstacles discouraging women from seeking help with drug abuse. This issue is even more pressing among First Nations women.

“Guilt and shame are stopping many women from reaching out for help,” states Peter Howlett, President of Portage, a non-profit organisation with nine addiction rehabilitation service centres in Québec and two others in Ontario and New Brunswick. “We must do everything possible to facilitate access to treatment.”

Because drug abuse is often intertwined with unhealthy relationships and poor self-image, all of Portage’s treatment programs are gender-specific, with two distinct communities – one for men and the other for women. “Without the pressure of being around members of the opposite sex, women are better able to identify the root causes of their drug problems and work through them,” says Peter Vamos, Executive Director of Portage. “They feel more comfortable and can make better progress in their therapy.”


Portage’s Mother and Child Program, which has helped more than 1,300 women and their children, responds to the specific needs of drug addicted mothers, by offering them the opportunity to seek treatment while maintaining custody of their child.
“If my son would’ve been taken away from me, I wouldn’t have come to treatment,” explains a resident. “Having him here with me is everything.”

During the day, while the mothers are in treatment, the children attend the centre’s on-site daycare, where specialised educators help them work through any developmental delays or behavioural problems that may have arisen because of the mother’s past drug abuse. After daycare, the mothers spend all their time with their child, strengthening their bond and learning how to better manage the stresses of parenting.

A recent study done by consulting firm Sogémap shows that as a result of living in the community setting at Portage, the children learn how to better express their feelings, better manage their emotions, and trust others. Their ability to solve problems, their gross and fine motor skills, as well as personal and social skills also improve.


In addition to the therapy provided in its drug addiction rehabilitation centres, Portage provides social reintegration and aftercare services to its graduates. These programs help clients apply the tools and competencies acquired in therapy to the outside world, while providing the necessary support during this very vulnerable transition period.


“We may not see them or hear them, but these women need our help,” states Peter Howlett. “As a society, we must reach out to these silent victims and get them into treatment.” At Portage, they can work through their drug addiction issues in a safe and secure environment, surrounded by other women who are working through similar struggles, with a treatment plan based on their specific needs.


Over nearly 45 years, Portage has helped tens of thousands of people overcome their drug addiction issues. Portage’s services, provided free of charge to youth, adults, pregnant women and mothers with young children, and people with mental illness, are accredited with exemplary standing by Accreditation Canada. Portage operates nine service centres in Québec: in Montéal, Prévost, Québec City, and Saint-Malachie. Two other centres serve youth in Ontario and Atlantic Canada.
For more information, please visit www.portage.ca.