With fewer than 50 publicly-funded youth treatment beds in the province, none of which are in the Okanagan, The Bridge Youth and Family Services have mobilized to meet the needs of youth struggling with addiction problems faster.
“Those few beds available have incredible waitlists, because we are out of the region and those services don’t know our children oftentimes our young people are bumped to the bottom of the list,” said Celine Thompson, the Bridge Youth and Family Services executive director.
“We have had young people waiting an excess of a year and a half for a bed.”
The charity has been working to establish a 16-bed treatment facility for $16 million. However, overdoses in the province are on the rise. There were 147 illicit drug toxicity deaths reported in August provincially with seven of those deaths in the Okanagan.
B.C. health officials warn that street drugs have become even more toxic because of the pandemic.
This alarming pattern inspired Thompson and her team to create a youth treatment centre in phases and the first phase is ready to go.
“Because of the urgency, including the opioid crisis (and) including the fact that there is no youth treatment in this entire region, we have decided to forge ahead and do the project in phases,” said Thompson.
Their new six-bed treatment facility has been renovated, including new doors, renovated bathrooms, a new furnace was installed and the building on Cadder Ave. was brought up to building standards because of a donation of $50,000 from the Rotary Club of Kelowna Sunrise.
It will be ready to open once The Bridge secures $1 million for operations which they expect to have secured by this time next year.
The Kelowna Sunrise Rotarians are fundraising again to help the bridge and other non-profits, having launched an online raffle to help bring the opening day of the phase of the first youth recovery house in the Okanagan a little closer.
“Our Ribfest which was cancelled this year due to COVID-19 we had to get more creative so we offered online tickets and Rotary blitzes at several Save-on-foods locations.
Tickets are available for the raffle until Wednesday, Sept. 30 on their website, kelownasunrise.ca