Province cancels lease for addiction facility

The province terminate lease agreement for a property near Keremeos that formerly housed a residential teen addictions recovery facility.

  • Apr. 24, 2015 7:00 a.m.

The provincial government has terminated its lease agreement for a property outside Keremeos that formerly housed a residential teen addictions recovery facility.

The Crossing, which opened in 2009, was suddenly closed in March by its operator, a Quebec-based company called Portage. The facility had not been serving any clients for several months before its closure.

“We are profoundly disappointed,” Jennifer Johnstone, Central City Foundation president and CEO said in a telephone interview.

The province was only in its first year of a five-year lease with option to renew multiple times when it terminated. The province leased the facility at no charge.

Johnstone explained Central City Foundation first bought the 58-acre property in 2000.

The goal was always to turn it into a residential therapeutic facility for teens with addictions issues.

It took almost 10 years for the foundation to raise $6.5 million needed for renovations and to put together partnerships between the government and an operator.

“We did everything we did understanding that the Ministry of Health, the health authorities were going to fund that (the operating of the facility) going forward,” she said.

“We have more work to do now. It’s going to be more challenging… but I certainly have not given up on brining the government back to the project.”

The lease was officially terminated by the Provincial Health Services Authority on April 13, about six weeks after the facility was closed.

“We are sad for the families. They are what continues to drive us, the families. We know that we have years and years of evidence that longterm residential treatment work,” Johnstone said.

The provincial government has not yet announced a plan as to how they will move forward with teen and youth addictions.

There were only two other facilities in the province that offer a similar addictions program.

“PHSA (Provincial Health Services Authority) has transitioned the property back to Central City Foundation as of Monday April 13, 2015.

The decision to terminate the lease was not taken lightly and was informed by the advice of PHSA legal and facilities management colleagues,” an email from PHSA spokesperson Heather Oliver stated. “This does not preclude future operations at the site, however, PHSA is committed to exploring a full range of options for the provision of provincial youth residential treatment for substance use and are meeting with Ministry and Health Authority stakeholder partners to get input on next steps.”

Since 2009 about 400 teens were served through the program at The Crossing.

Following the sudden closure, a variety of ongoing issues have surfaced from both the operator’s and the province about operations at the facility.

Portage spokespeople have charged that they were forced to work without an official agreement with the government and without secured funding for the last two years. PHSA spokespeople have said there have been ongoing questions surrounding qualifications of staff and use of funds.

The Crossing received about $2.5 million a year in provincial funding to operate.