Today 25-year-old Rob Boretta-Mcleod is a father of two with a full-time job in Penticton, but at eighteen he was addicted to cocaine.
He sought help at a residential youth treatment centre for substance abuse in Keremeos.
“I would definitely say it was life changing. It gave me the skills to recognize the dangers and see where I was going to end up going again.”
But disagreements between the former operator and the provincial government led to its abrupt closure in 2015, leaving a gap in publicly funded beds for youth fighting addiction.
“There was a lot of us residents who have passed through the program who banded together and we started a petition,” Boretta-Mcleod said.
Two years later and now the facility, renamed Ashnola at The Crossing, has reopened with 22 beds for those aged 17 to 24 struggling with severe addiction.
A new operator has been hired and non-profit Central City Foundation, which built and owns the facility, is providing the 58-acre rural site to the province rent-free.
It says the service is crucial due to the ongoing drug overdose epidemic.
“I would expect many of the young people are struggling with opioids and if they are that means fentanyl is a direct risk,” said President and CEO Jennifer Johnstone.
Five young people struggling with substance abuse issues are living there right now with the gradual intake of up to 22. They can stay for up to six months.
But 33 people have already been referred by health authorities, meaning some individuals will end up on a wait list.
“It has capacity for 40 so we are working with the ministry and mental health and substance use services to bring the funding up to make this a full capacity facility,” said Keremeos Mayor Manfred Bauer.
Boretta-Mcleod said the program will save lives.
“In the last couple of years there have been at least two residents of the Okanagan who have passed away who could have benefited from the program,” he said.