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Austin Warner (1952-2024): inspirational drugs counsellor

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Austin Warner (File photograph)

One of Bermuda’s veterans in the field of addiction briefly threw his hat in the ring as a 2007 election candidate for the United Bermuda Party.

Austin Warner Jr was also a guidance counsellor at the former Sandys Secondary School, and a member of the Council Partners Charitable Trust, which ran the finances of charities involved in the treatment of alcohol and drug abuse.

Mr Warner traced his commitment to the field of addiction to bitter experiences from his troubled childhood in New York.

He told The Royal Gazette in a 2007 interview: “It’s a long story. It involved a lot of family abuse and family neglect, and my inability to filter that as a ten-year-old child.”

Mr Warner said that by his mid-teens he had sunk to “the lowest of low on the totem pole of addiction”.

However, he added: “I spent my early adulthood developing strong values, rather than partying and getting high, so I was able to be of help at an early age.”

At the time of the interview, he worked at the Turning Point addiction service, but his involvement with Bermuda’s addicts spanned agencies across nearly 30 years.

Austin Warner (File photograph)

Mr Warner was speaking after being unveiled as the UBP candidate for Pembroke Central in the General Election, pitting him against Wayne Perinchief, of the Progressive Labour Party.

Mr Perinchief retained the seat handily that December, picking up 439 votes to Mr Warner's 308.

Mr Warner studied theology at Oakwood College in Alabama, received a master's degree in counselling from Faith College in Alabama, followed by a doctorate in addiction psychology at the International University for Graduate Studies.

He came to Bermuda in 1977 with his first Bermudian wife.

Initially, Mr Warner ran the Reach Out residential facility for men at Prospect.

Austin Warner (File photograph)

He returned to the United States to study theology, was ordained as a minister, and opened a church in Chesapeake, Virginia, for recovering addicts.

Mr Warner became a counsellor at Sandys Secondary upon returning, and worked with his wife at the Observatory Cottage for Boys.

Back in the US, he was appointed regional director of addiction services for the First Hospital Corporation in Virginia Beach.

He returned to Bermuda in 1997 as clinical co-ordinator of the Government’s Addiction Services, and was given the 1997 Council Partners Charitable Trust Award, later renamed the Jerry Griffiths Memorial Award.

He became director of programme standards and development for Council Partners.

Mr Warner was also a broadcaster, hosting The Joy of Recovery for VSB and producing and hosting Family Focus, an award-winning weekly radio show on ZBM 1340.

In a 2000 interview with the Mid-Ocean News, Mr Warner said many in Bermuda struggled to comprehend the reality of addiction.

He said that while helping agencies worked hard to educate the community and deliver support, Bermudians needed to “accept, as a nation, that the disease of addiction has affected, directly or indirectly, nearly every family on this island — and we will not eradicate it until the same amount of energy and manpower is applied against it”.

He added: “But we can't do it alone. We need everyone.”

Mr Warner was married to Sondra Warner, and father to Theophilus Warner, Latoya Green, Donee Caines, Aprille DeShield and Sahima Choudhury.

• Austin Stanley Warner, a longtime drugs counsellor and one-time United Bermuda Party electoral candidate, was born on August 17, 1952. He died in May 2024, aged 71

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Published June 04, 2024 at 7:57 am (Updated June 04, 2024 at 7:39 am)

Austin Warner (1952-2024): inspirational drugs counsellor

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