Addicted youth and their families will be left out in the cold as plans to reopen the treatment facility outside Keremeos won’t be decided or implemented before the end of 2015.
It turns out the Regional District Okanagan-Similkameen communications team misstepped when sending out a release last week stating the Minister of Health Terry Lake hoped The Crossing would be open by the beginning of 2016.
In an email exchange with the Review the Ministry of Health stated there is no timeline for the reopening of the facility but that discussions with stakeholders are underway.
It was also stated that a model of care had not yet been decided and hiring a new operator isn’t even in the works yet.
The facility has sat empty for more than six months since previous operator Portage abruptly ceased operations in March 2015.
Spokespersons from both Portage and the province stated at the time that budget issues and properly trained staff were the main reasons for the closure.
The facility opened in 2009 on a 58-acre property located approximately six kilometres west of Keremeos.
Central City Foundation, a Vancouver based charity, originally bought the property in 2000 with the goal of fundraising to have the property upgraded to a teen addictions rehabilitation facility.
It took almost 10 years for the foundation to raise $6.5 million needed for renovations and for partnerships between the government and an operator to be secured.
The province leased the property for free from Central City Foundation until May of this year – about three months after Quebec-based company Portage pulled out of operating the facility.
“We’ve been having a lot of meetings trying to get things back on track. We’re hearing from BC families that there is a need for a longer term live in program for younger people,” Jennifer Johnstone, Central City Foundation president and CEO said during a phone interview with the Review. “Here we have a beautiful site that is costing the foundation a lot to keep it empty. We want the government to use it.”
The foundation is currently paying a caretaker to stay at the property and all the utility bills to ensure the cold weather doesn’t ruin the buildings.
Johnstone said the foundation’s vision remains the same – using the property to help youth battling addictions issues.
Although discussions are still preliminary, Johnstone said there’s been talk of turning the 42-bed facility from youth focussed to helping clients that are over 19.
“The original vision (when it opened in 2009) was to serve a group of 14 to 24 and there continues to be a great deal of need throughout that age group, but in order to meet licensing requirements in the province there is a division at 19. You can only be licensed for under or over 19,” she said.
The crossing was previously licensed to help youth aged 13 to 18. Predominantly the clients were aged 16 to 18 years of age.
“We aren’t looking at adults I think we’re talking about 19 to 24 instead of 13 to 18 (years of age),” she said.
Although the Review sent several questions to the Ministry of Health regarding timeframe of reopening, client ages, licensing requirements, and possible employment opportunities we were told it was too early in the process to have any of those answers.
“These decisions are still under discussion, and will be made based on evidence about what model will deliver the best outcomes for patients,” an email from the Ministry of Health stated.
“While planning for replacement services is underway, the ministry and PHSA are working with health authorities to support young people requiring live-away substance use services. Funding that would have been used to pay for services provided at the Crossing is being used to support local health authorities as needed, so any youth waiting for services receives the care they need.”
At this time there are at least two live in addiction rehabilitation programs currently operating in the province – PEAK House in Vancouver and Nechako in Prince George.