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The British Columbia government says it is committing $36-million over nearly three years to fund more addiction treatment space for youth.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Judy Darcy said the investment will add 123 new treatment beds and more than double the current number of spaces available for youth aged 12 to 24.

The province and local health authorities are discussing where the spaces should be located, but Ms. Darcy said some could be available within the next few months.

The beds will form part of a continuum of care that Ms. Darcy said will include withdrawal management and detox spaces, residential recovery and specialized care such as psychiatric nursing and support.

She said even though the majority of British Columbians dying from illicit drug use are not young people, it’s absolutely critical to provide help for youth when they are “less entrenched” in addictive behaviour.

Ms. Darcy said 60 young people died in B.C. between January and June while using fentanyl-laced illicit drugs, but youth battling all types of drug or alcohol addiction are eligible for the new beds.

“We are talking about people who are addicted to a variety of different substances,” Ms. Darcy said, noting her ministry has also developed guidelines on alcohol use disorder and a variety of other drugs.

Colin Tessier, executive director of the Victoria-based Threshold Housing Society, says the need for additional treatment beds is quite dire.

“We really need to catch up,” he says.

“This investment takes us quite far in terms of reducing some of those wait lists, I think, for treatment specifically, but it really is a continued investment broadly in housing, supported recovery beds, harm reduction services … the need is great across the board.”

The province opened a 20-bed youth treatment centre in Chilliwack last week, raising the current number of youth treatment and recovery beds in B.C., to 124.

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