Jason Kenney's disgraced brother gets another shot at recovery work
David Kenney was ran out of B.C. after operating an unlicensed addiction and mental health clinic. Now he's training "recovery coaches" in Calgary.
Now sporting a beard like his younger brother Jason, David Kenney has opened up Emergo Academy in Calgary, which offers a two-month course to become a certified “recovery coach.”
In December 2021, Jason boasted to a Chamber of Commerce audience that his middle brother had arrived in Calgary, touting his family reunification as anecdotal evidence that his policies are attracting people from outside the province to reside in Alberta.
The academy’s website boasts the opportunity for coaches to have a “heroic impact” while promising “epic freedom.” Freedom for whom? Certainly not the people Premier Danielle Smith wants to push into involuntary recovery.
Emergo’s goal is to train 1,000 recovery coaches by 2028. “We will mentor you to turn your pain into your power,” the site promises.
Recovery coaches, who are not therapists or counsellors, connect individuals in recovery with the supports they need — like therapists and counsellors.
Those aware of David’s history in the industry might find the fact he’s in charge of training recovery coaches extraordinarily troubling.
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In 2013, an unlicensed recovery clinic he operated for youth in Kelowna with his wife Susan, who is also involved with Emergo, was shut down by the B.C. government.
NeurVana Recovery and Wellness Centre was notable, in part, for its use of unproven neurotechnology to "harmonize the brains" of teens in its care.
This “brainwave optimization” tech, which involves placing electrodes on a person’s head and converting brain activity to musical tones, has previously been scrutinized as a faulty and costly treatment for dementia.
NeurVana, or “The Ranch” as David was fond of calling it, came to the attention of the Interior Health Authority (IHA) after three girls ran away and asked a neighbour to get them out.
Social workers with the health authority came to the clinic and removed three people, aged 14 to 17, from care, presumably the three girls who attempted to escape, and the facility was ordered to cease operations.
Three families filed a lawsuit against David and Susan Kenney, which contained some pretty horrific allegations.
Sandra Colquhoun of Burnaby said she sent her son to NeurVana to address a cannabis addiction and other psychological issues, paying $20,000 for a three-week stay. Her son allegedly lost 20 pounds in the two weeks he was there before the clinic was closed.
Another family paid $25,000 for their daughter’s treatment. She was allegedly forbidden from accessing her personal items and calling home.
The third family alleged they paid $25,000 for their daughter to be denied access to her prescription medication for depression.
The lawsuits were dropped after the families reached an agreement with NeurVana, the details of which are unknown.
David and Susan Kenney attempted to challenge their clinic’s closure at the B.C. Supreme Court, arguing the IHA didn’t have jurisdiction to shut NeurVana down, because “NeurVana did not offer or provide medical or psychiatric treatments.”
This petition, which was dismissed in 2016, provided further details about how the Kenneys allegedly treated patients in their care, revealing a cultish, manipulative environment.
When patients were permitted to phone home, they were allegedly forced to do so on speaker phone from David Kenney’s car, with him in attendance, and were warned in advance that any complaints about conditions at NeurVana would result in the call’s abrupt termination.
“Supposedly confidential conversations between owner David Kenney and the teens were later used against them to embarrass or ridicule them as a means of control,” Andrea Peacock of Kelowna’s Daily Courier reported.
When David took away patients’ personal belongings, including their shoes, he would gradually return them as he saw fit.
By 2014, David and Susan had fucked off to the Cayman Islands. Two years later, they moved to Barrie, Ont., where they opened a clinic called Emergo Recovery, which offered the same type of pseudoscientific therapy to adults that NeurVana offered to teens.
That facility shut down in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the Emergo name lives on as the Kenneys’ recovery coach training academy.
David Kenney’s time operating NeurVana is conspicuously absent from his LinkedIn page.
Thanks to the UCP’s so-called “recovery-oriented system of care,” ushered in by his younger brother, it appears David Kenney has gotten a fresh start.
There is no evidence that Jason Kenney was aware of, let alone supported, his brother’s conduct while it allegedly occurred.
But by the time David moved to Alberta, Jason was in the process of dismantling the province’s limited harm reduction infrastructure while lavishing funds on private abstinence-only addiction recovery clinics.
To this day, we have no data on this recovery-centric approach’s efficacy.
I reached out to Emergo Academy at the phone number listed on its website for comment from David Kenney. I’ll update this piece in the unlikely event he responds.
H/t tofor bringing this story to my attention.
The Orchard gets action
I only noticed this today while doing some research into recovery coaching, but the Medicine Hat-based Our Collective Journey (OCJ) recovery group has pulled out of the North America Recovers coalition due to the coalition’s anti-harm reduction ad campaign.
As far as I know, The Orchard is the only outlet that reported on OCJ’s initial endorsement back in February.
The Medicine Hat News reported last month:
[OCJ executive director Rick] Armstrong acknowledges the organization’s recent entanglement in the North America Recovers coalition, which is comprised of U.S. and Canada-based addiction recovery organizations that, in January, launched an anti-harm reduction campaign directed at U.S. President Joe Biden.
Cited as an original coalition member, OCJ is no longer associated with the coalition, says Armstrong, as its message doesn’t align with OCJ’s values.
While OCJ is focused on addictions recovery, it promotes no public opinion on harm reduction measures, including supervised consumption sites and methadone use, as addiction and recovery experiences are unique to each individual.
I’m pleased that OCJ made the right decision.
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