Kitchener November 24, 2014
Meet Heather Kerr, Executive Director, Stonehenge Therapeutic Community
When she was 16 years old, Heather Kerr had the opportunity to visit a penitentiary. What she saw that day influenced Heather’s desire for social work. “As a young person, I found the atmosphere in the penitentiary astounding and realized that this is a place where people live after having gone through a most challenging experience in their life. I was curious to know how people could move beyond such challenges and have the courage and resiliency to change their life.”
When she got home after the visit, Heather recalls vividly how excited she was when she informed her parents that in the future, she would like to work in prison and help people. “I was really fascinated by correctional services, much to the dismay of my parents. My dad really wanted me to be a lawyer.”
Heather grew up in Port Hope and has two brothers who have chosen chiropractic as a profession and she was the only child who wanted to take a different path.
Driven by her passion for social work, Heather obtained an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Law with a specialization in Criminology from Carleton University in Ottawa. Heather has spent 25 years in the mental health field, specializing in addictions, family violence and trauma. She has experience in both provincial and federal corrections, as well as program design and clinical consultation through her private practice.
Following her dreams, Heather began her career in corrections in the 1980's as the Program Director at the Ellen Osler Home in Dundas, Ontario when it was a men’s provincial halfway house. She worked as a consultant with provincial corrections to create a more gender responsive substance abuse program for the Vanier Centre for Women. She also implemented the substance abuse program at Grand Valley Institution for Women when the prison first opened in 1996 and continued to supervise the program staff for the following 5 years. “The work was incredibly rewarding and exciting as it combined addictions services, trauma work as well as working with women in correctional programs which drew on my criminology educational background.”
Heather decided to go back to university to study for a Master’s Degree in Clinical Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University: “I wanted to work with clients during their healing journey and see their successes. I really wanted that grounded experience as a therapist.”
After completing her Master’s Degree, Heather joined Stonehenge Therapeutic Community (STC) from 1995 to 1998 as the Clinical Director.
In 2002, after a number of years in private practice, Heather returned to STC as the Executive Director: “I have been in this role for 12 years and it’s been amazing to see how we have grown and become an integral part of the community. We serve such a broad range of clients – supporting people with addictions, those who need housing, geriatrics and those with an acquired brain injury.”
Heather is grateful for how community programs are delivered in partnership with other health service providers: “We have brought together mental health and addictions services within many of our programs making it easier for Waterloo Wellington residents to access services. That’s been a huge success.”
Her message to people living with addictions is: “There is hope. There is an opportunity to make a change in your life. It doesn’t mean the journey is going to be an easy one, but with hope, courage and strength change is possible.”
As Executive Director, Heather has held a number of leadership positions. She was the Chair of the Wellington Guelph Drug Strategy Committee and past Co-chair of the Waterloo Wellington Addiction and Mental Health Network. Provincially, Heather is Vice President of the Ontario Halfway House Association. Nationally, she is one of the founding members of the Canadian Association of Women’s Criminal Justice Residential Options. She completed a secondment in 2012/2013 with the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network as an Integration Lead for Addictions.
It’s no wonder that Heather received the J. Bryan Riley Meritorious Service Award this year from the International Community Corrections Association for her outstanding service to community corrections.
Since 1971, STC has provided intensive addiction treatment, specializing in trauma treatment and concurrent disorders, for men and women across Ontario including those involved with federal and provincial corrections. STC programs and services are supported by the Waterloo Wellington Local Health Integration Network, Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Service and Correctional Service of Canada.
Outside work, Heather enjoys spending time with her teenage boys who play hockey, soccer and lacrosse. “My partner Ken and I spend a lot of time in arenas. I always see them play and am very much a cheering mom.” She also likes gardening, reading and travelling. On family occasions, you can find Heather, Ken and her boys enjoying time with her mom and her two brothers.
For more information:
Heather Kerr, MSW, CSW
Stonehenge Therapeutic Community
Telephone: 519 837 1470