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Concerns grow over future of addictions treatment services in Penticton

Click to play video: '“The worst day of my life” Grieving Penticton mother seeks solace at addictions treatment centre, which is slated to close, following son’s overdose death.' “The worst day of my life” Grieving Penticton mother seeks solace at addictions treatment centre, which is slated to close, following son’s overdose death.
“The worst day of my life” Grieving Penticton mother seeks solace at addictions treatment centre, which is slated to close, following son’s overdose death – Mar 8, 2021

When Cherith Robson lost her son to an overdose last July, she said she lost her will to live.

“I wasn’t even sure that I wanted to be here anymore,” Robson said. “Life changed for me. If Hayden could die, so could I.”

Hayden Robson, 27, was Robson’s only child.

He died of an accidental drug overdose in Robson’s Penticton home, after having just started seeking help for his drug addiction at the Pathway Addictions Resource Centre.

Read more: ‘It was a gut punch’: Shock expressed over impending closure of Penticton addiction treatment centre

“He really struggled and he begged me for help,” she said. “Unfortunately, he accidentally overdosed in between the first and second appointment.”

The heartbroken mother sought out help at Pathways herself, attending a grief counselling program for parents of children who have died of overdose or suicide.

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“They guided me through skilllfully and gently, taking a look at what happened with Hayden and what led up to Hayden’s death and to deal with the things you don’t talk about in a normal setting,” she said. “Now I can I can talk about Hayden’s death, I can talk about what happened to Hayden.”

Grief counselling is just one of the numerous services offered at Pathways.

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The centre has been offering addictions treatment services in the community for 47 years not only to those struggling with addiction but to their loved ones as well.

“We provide an enormous amount of services,” said Daryl Meyers, executive director for Pathways.

In addition to one-on-one and group counselling, Pathways also offers presentations at schools across School District 67.

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“Last year our prevention education worker did 1,100 presentations in the middle schools,” Meyers said. “We have to catch kids when they are young.”

The future of the services said Meyers, is in question because as of June 1, the Interior Health Authority (IHA), which provides the centre with the majority of its funding, is taking over the contract and will be providing the services itself.

“I don’t think they are going to be able to pick up all that slack,” Meyers said. “With the money that we get, we just provide a whole wraparound service for all of our clients in all the areas they are struggling in.”

Read more: B.C. reports record number of illicit drug overdoses in 2020

But in a statement to Global News, IHA stated, “We can assure the community that no services are being reduced, in fact programs will increase, and we are determined to make client transition seamless from Pathways to Interior Health.”

IHA said it is bringing these South Okanagan services in-house to better integrate them into the continuum of care, which will enable the health authority to expand, strengthen and increase programs for people who need them.

It goes on to say that all other major areas of the Interior have shifted their substance use counselling services to the same approach.

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But Meyers said many questions still remain unanswered about what services may or may not be offered under the new IHA model.

She also said she believes accessing help will be a lot harder from what is currently available.

“Anybody can just walk in the door. You can just come in the door any day and ask for help, whereas we know that Interior Health has already said there won’t be a drop in centre service” Meyers said. “So it’s going to be very difficult for you to access service”.

IHA stated it will report back on its transition progress from the external contract to internally operated services in the coming weeks and months.

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