A statement from Interior Health CEO Susan Brown defending the decision to stop funding an addiction resource centre in Penticton this spring has sparked outrage.
This week, Brown released an opinion-editorial article to various media outlets, outlining her case for “transforming mental health and substance use programs in Penticton.”
In her op-ed article, Brown claimed that “the current model and services contracted through Pathways (Addictions Resource Centre) is preventing people from accessing the full range of available supports and care.”
Brown said that “people need barrier-free access into a system that supports them.”
“At Pathways, new client intake was limited to Tuesdays from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. This prevents people from fast access to support when they need it. Interior Health will change that and open drop-in access to new clients five days per week,” she said.
“A challenge with the Pathways contract was the inability to track client progression and know whether people might be falling through the cracks. By bringing these counselling services in-house, we can follow up with people more effectively, find out what they need, and ensure people get all of the right supports and health services.”
Global News contacted Pathways on Friday, seeking comment. A spokesperson called it a shocking read and quite narrow in scope.
“It is true Pathways provides open intake on Tuesday afternoons,” Pathways CEO Daryl Meyers said in a letter rebutting Brown.
“During this time, we have three counsellors available for intake and the process is very smooth. Clients fill out paperwork, are seen by a counsellor, and a basic plan is established.
“During the rest of the week Pathways provides intake for anyone who cannot make the Tuesday afternoon or for clients who are in crisis. Clients can fill out the paperwork and been seen by a counsellor when they walk in the door.”
Meyers also disputed Brown’s claim about Pathways’ inability to track client progression.
“Pathways has been in the community providing substance use and addictions services for 47 years throughout the entire South Okanagan to Princeton and up to Peachland,” said Meyers.
“The staff have extensive knowledge in the continuum of care that is involved in substance use and addictions and that is a skill not learned by obtaining a master’s of counselling or a nursing degree. They are taking back the Pathways counselling contracts to hire maybe two counsellors.”
Meyers wasn’t the only one who took aim at Brown’s opinion.
Mark Smed is the vice-president of Pathways’ board of directors and claims to be a former Pathways client.
“Unfortunately, as part of my role at Pathways, it was required to read IHA CEO Susan Brown’s response to the community outrage over the dismantling of Pathways after 47 years of service to the community,” Smed said.
He wrote that Pathways staff have strived to support the community on a budget of $500,000 annually — an amount from IH that’s remained unchanged despite a rapid rise in overdose deaths.
“Our staff worked tirelessly with our clients and were visible in the community. They worked at schools with youth and offered support groups, including grief groups for people who had lost loved ones to overdose,” Smed said.
“We stretched our funding as far as we could and we secured additional funds from wonderful partners like the United Way, 100 Women Who Care, The Community Foundation, Parkers Chrysler, Summerland Hospital Auxiliary, private donors and many more.”
Smed also said, “the concerns you raised about our operations are false, but the worse part is that as the administrator of the contract, you had 100 per cent of the power in governing that contract.”
“The only way you could be unhappy with the services provided was if you were somehow incapable of understanding your role in our agreement or simply lacked any concern for our community. I would expect nothing less than an apology to the staff at this point for your choice of words.”