PENTICTON - The company that closed its youth residential treatment centre in Keremeos earlier this month without any notice disputes claims by the provincial government that it was closed due to unlicenced staff.
Portage B.C. is sticking to its assertion that it closed the facility because of funding issues from the B.C. government, despite a spokesperson for Children’s and Women’s Mental Health and Substance Abuse Programs telling Infonews.ca they tried working with the company to bring staffing into line.
Seychelle Harding, spokesperson for Portage B.C., maintains that it was all down to dollars and cents.
“I’d have to say it was mainly financial, although there were different points we couldn’t agree on. We have other programs in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and Ontario that are not just adolescent-based, and we decided to concentrate efforts on our other options,” Harding said.
Harding did admit licensing of staff was an issue, but said that wasn’t Portage’s responsibility.
“That was between the health authorities,” she said. “The budget we had agreed on never materialized. We went through two years of discussions and couldn’t wait any longer. Our business is to take care of the kids.”
Harding said Portage and the health authority had come to terms on a new care model adding “some good points” came from the discussions. She said it's very sad to be leaving B.C. Portage started working towards a youth treatment facility in the province “a long time ago,” culminating in the opening of The Crossing six years ago.
“Portage helped a lot of youth in need,” she said.
Harding said a former resident recently posted to the Portage Facebook page his account of how his stay at The Crossing helped him.
“It’s heart wrenching when you see the consequences of losing a facility like this,” Harding said.
The Crossing offered residential treatment for addicted youth for up to six months and Harding says when The Crossing first opened six years ago, it was the only facility in B.C.
Employees working at The Crossing have been offered positions at different Portage facilities, and some have accepted that offer, Harding said. She wasn’t sure if the employees were asked to sign a gag order, adding Portage policy has been to ask employees to forward inquiries about Portage through company channels. She said a total of 30 employees laid off. Over the past six years, Portage couldn't fill all the beds available. The Crossing’s distance from Vancouver and the fact that many of its residents came from the Lower Mainland, sometimes created issues.
“It was in a beautiful setting. The site had immense therapeutic value, and we had managed to live with the distance from Vancouver,” she said.
Harding said Portage appreciated their relationship with the Village of Keremeos.
“The people of Keremeos really embraced the centre. They realized those kids could have been anyone of their own children,” she said, adding the residents often participated in village functions. “It’s all very unfortunate. It went well for a time, but in the end we didn’t end up in agreement, and the kids end up losing,” she said.
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