Kelowna live-in youth drug treatment program pursued

Fundraising goal for Bridge Youth & Family Services project is to raise $10 million

Supporters behind the Bridge Youth & Family Services effort to build a live-in youth drug treatment program for the Central Okanagan gathered at Kelowna Art Gallery on Wednesday to kick-off an ambitious $10 fundraising initiative over the next two years.

Celine Thompson, executive director for The Bridge, said they receive calls weekly from families in distress, looking for treatment for their son or daughter—only to be told that none exist here.

According to Thompson, the extensive wait lists for the mere 45 publicly funded spaces in all of British Columbia wastes the small window of opportunity that exists for young people who have gathered their strength and resolve to pursue recovery.

“Based on referrals to our youth detox, and the data from the B.C. Coroner reports, there is a need for live-in treatment program in our community for children as young as 12. Perhaps younger,” Thompson said.

Related: New youth detox beds announced

Thompson said young people make up more than 20 per cent of the overdose fatalities in B.C. while the rate of death of children and youth between 10 and 18 years of age doubled from 2016 to 2017—and shows no signs of abating.

“These young people and their families are known to us, they are not numbers on a page. We have a front row seat to those children who die alone, often in public spaces, with no one there to comfort them or care. It shatters us, ” said youth detox program manager Jamie McGregor.

Dr. Tom Warshawski, chief of pediatrics at Kelowna General Hospital, echoed the dire need for treatment options in the Okanagan for children and youth, and highlighted the proven benefit of early intervention.

Kelowna city councillor Mohini Singh offered the city’s support to The Bridge: “We, at the City of Kelowna, recognize that the Youth Recovery House will serve to prevent the painful path into addictions, along with the struggle with trauma, poverty, homelessness and family breakdown that often accompany it.”

Council has endorsed, in principle, the premise of the Journey Home Strategy in early May. As the work on the homelessness strategy has unfolded, the need for youth substance use treatment has been highlighted as a key gap in the local system of care that needs to be addressed, added Singh.

The Bridge board of directors has invested $300,000 of its reserve funds for the youth recovery house project, and has committed that no funds donated to the project will be used for fund development, administration or staffing.

“Absolutely every penny of every dollar raised will be invested in this life-saving resource for our young people,” said board member Bob Levin.

The first fundraising event for the Youth Recovery House will be a rooftop campout hosted by the Professional Firefighters Association Union Local 953 at the Kelowna Yacht Club on the weekend of July 21.

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