About 80 people marched along Highway 33, from Kelowna-Lake Country MLA Norm Letnick’s office to Crossroads Treatment Centre, Tuesday to show their opposition toward the closure of Crossroads.
Earlier this month the non-profit society that deals with addiction services announced it would be forced to shut its doors partly due to a failure to reach a funding agreement with Interior Health for the publicly-funded treatment beds and detox beds it provides.
The current funding contract between Crossroads and Interior Health was renewed last year for a three-year term. Less than a year in, Crossroads asked for an 85 per cent increase in funding. Interior Health offered a 30 per cent increase, but that was not enough.
Sonia Nicholson is a Hospital Employees’ Union member and has been a detox nurse with Crossroads for six years. She said she never thought the day would come that the service would end.
“People who believe Kelowna doesn’t have a drug problem are truly naive,” said Nicholson.
“Last month the number of clients who entered the doors of detox was in the triple digits.”
She noted the clients will be most impacted by the decision to close Crossroads’ doors.
“The staff can all walk away hurt, sad and without a job, but in all reality we will all find a job and move on. My real fear is: What about the clients?”
One of those clients is 33-year-old Dean Desousa. He has been suffering from heroin and cocaine addiction since he was 15.
Desousa has eight days left in the 42-day program and said he already can feel how much the service has changed him.
“I’ve gotten so much out of the program while being here,” said Desousa.
“The tools that I’ve learned, that I’m going to apply to my life when I leave, are so beneficial.”
He said the closure of the service will put “so many people’s lives at risk.”
“There are only so many treatment centres in B.C. It’s very limited, and this is probably the best one out there.”
Twenty-four-year-old Darren Washington said he is already looking at life differently after just one week at Crossroads.
“I came in here with a broken spirit, no confidence…cocaine ruined my life, my friendships, my relationship,” said Washington.
“Within the week I’ve changed…I wake up every morning and stop looking at the negative; (rather), the goodness of it.”
Mike Nuyens, who is on the provincial executive of the B.C. Government and Service Employees Union, spoke to the crowd Tuesday on behalf of the 12 workers who are staffed at the facility.
“Detox and treatment services are successful in saving lives, bringing families back together, getting people back to work and back to living,” said Nuyens.
“Interior Health has no transitional plan and have made no commitments to continue the service.
“We call upon Interior Health, the Ministry of Health and our Okanagan MLAs to do better. To come together and put together a plan to save this service that the community has a right to.”