The B.C. government has agreed to reopen a Keremeos treatment centre known as The Crossing, a move that will roughly double the number of publicly funded residential spaces for youth addicted to drugs or alcohol.
The facility will provide 22 spots for youth between the ages of 17 and 24 starting in 2017, the Ministry of Health will announce Wednesday. The province plans to issue a request for proposals for a contractor to run the facility, which is owned by the non-profit Central City Foundation.
The Crossing provided residential treatment from 2009 until last year, when the facility closed following disagreements between the former operator and the provincial government. Since then, supporters have been pushing to have it reopened.
The decision to reopen The Crossing recognizes that young people grappling with substance abuse need better treatment options, B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake said in an interview on Monday.
"When we closed it [The Crossing], it wasn't saying, 'We don't need this kind of service.' We repatriated the money back to health authorities so we wouldn't create a vacuum and there would be some space for youth with substance-abuse needs," Mr. Lake said.
"This is one type of service that we don't have a lot of around the province, and it does provide that specialized environment over a longer period of time that for some youth … is the best environment for them."
A budget will be determined through the RFP process. The facility previously operated with a budget of about $2.5-million a year.
The centre will be overseen by the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) through its B.C. Mental Health and Substance Use Services division.
There were tensions between the province and the former operator before The Crossing closed. The Interior Health Authority raised licensing concerns, including some related to staff training. PHSA, concerned with how provincial funds were being spent, commissioned an external audit in March, 2015.
Once the former operator, Portage – a non-profit group that runs substance abuse programs in Quebec, Ontario and New Brunswick – advised it would no longer be providing services, the audit ceased and was never completed, a spokeswoman for the Health Ministry confirmed.
There are currently about 20 publicly funded residential treatment beds for youth dealing with substance abuse in British Columbia, said Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, B.C.'s Representative for Children and Youth.
Recent data indicate that about 14 per cent of people between the ages of 19 and 35 experience substance-use disorders, and rates of mental-health and substance-use disorders are highest for people between the ages of 15 and 24, at nearly 12 per cent, the province says. Treatment at The Crossing will include group and family therapy, as well as support after clients leave the facility.
The province recently announced a new 10-bed unit at the Hope Centre, in North Vancouver, to provide specialized services for youth living with concurrent mental-health and substance use concerns. It is scheduled to open in 2017.
Other "live-away" programs include Peak House in Vancouver and the Nechako Youth Treatment Program in Prince George.
Central City Foundation raised more than $6-million to support The Crossing. Donors are keen to have the facility back up and running, as are family members of its prospective clients, said Jennifer Johnstone, president and chief executive officer of Central City Foundation.
"Not every young person needs this kind of resource, but some do and some lives will be saved," she said. "There's no question in my mind that some lives were saved and can be again."