Individuals seeking addiction counselling in the North Okanagan may be forced to head to the coast for assistance. Crossroads Treatment Centre in Kelowna is phasing out its detox and addiction counseling programs, which are one-of-a-kind in the North Okanagan. In the next three to six months, the programs will be gone because the centre can no longer afford them.
"It's a huge concern," says Jan Schumay, with the North Okanagan Youth and Family Services Society.
"We would refer our clients there when they were at a place where they were ready to address their issues," she says.
Now, those individuals will likely be passed off to centres on the coast as small, privately run centers reach maximum capacity. Already, those small centers have difficulty meeting the demand for services, and often have to put people on wait lists. With Crossroads closing its doors, the pressure is expected to increase.
"The reality is, by losing Crossroads, we will have to move people out of the community, which is obviously much more difficult."
Schumay says the nearest detox center will now be in Kamloops. But that center doesn't offer addiction counseling, which is an important part of detoxing.
"Jessica the Street Nurse", with NOYFSS, and whose last name cannot be revealed for safety reasons, says detox is the actual physical process of removing a substance from the body, while addiction counseling supports individuals with the day to day aspects of recovery, typically right after detox.
"You need to be not using to go into counseling treatment," Jessica says, adding there's a huge risk of individuals moving backwards if they don't follow up their detox with further treatment.
"Sharon the Social Worker", also with NOYFSS, says she's currently working with a young Vernon girl who is ready for treatment.
"We're going to have to send her to the coast," she says.
Sharon and Jessica represent the Street Nurse Outreach program which has existed since the mid 1990s and provides education to people who are homeless, drug addicted, and/or suffering with a mental illness. The program provides service to individuals in Vernon, Enderby, Armstrong and Lumby. Sharon and Jessica say it will be harder to help people they encounter through the program because of the loss of Crossroad's once nearby services.
Crossroads Treatment Society says inadequate funding from the Interior Health Authority is what forced them to shut down the two programs. Since the decision, which was announced Jan. 9, groups have been rallying to keep it from becoming a reality.
On Tuesday, Jan. 29, the Hospital Employees Union and the BC Government and Service Employees Union came together with signs and speeches outside Crossroads. They urged Crossroad's board of directors and IHA to resolve the funding issues and keep the doors open.