Children as young as 10 are reportedly overdosing from illicit drugs, and with limited treatment options in the Interior, one not-for-profit is hoping to change that by building a new, larger facility in the Okanagan.
Celine Thompson, the executive director of Kelowna-based Bridge Youth and Family Services, told Penticton city council Tuesday her organization is seeking support in its efforts to build the Okanagan Youth Recovery House, a 16-bedroom live-in facility on a rural property. A search for that property is already underway.
“Giving the overwhelming need in our communities, however, we’ve decided to take the leadership. We can’t wait,” she said during the presentation.
That need is highlighted by 2018 statistics that show 231 overdoses in the Interior, with 55 occurring in Kelowna. Seventeen of those 55 were children between the ages of 10 and 18.
“It has shattered us,” Thompson said.
In the Interior, council heard, only four beds are available for youth ages 17 – 24 to recover from substance abuse.
There are only 45 publicly-funded spaces in the entire province for youth recovery, but none in the Okanagan.
“We need to have places of solace, learning, recovery and healing for children,” said Thompson, adding she estimates there are approximately 30 youth Valley-wide already on waitlists for such a service.
Work is underway with a design of the Okanagan Youth Recovery House completed by Meiklejohn Architects Inc., with The Bridge committing $300,000 of its own funds towards the development.
In the meantime, The Bridge is planning to use a house it already owns to offer six beds to its most at-risk clients.
Thompson said Kelowna, Peachland, Oliver and Osoyoos have already shown support for the facility, with Penticton city councillors quickly jumping on board to offer their unanimous support.
“I think it’s such a sad commentary that these children are falling through the cracks,” said Coun. Katie Robinson.
“I see the same thing repeating itself now with our youth. It’s just so important that they get the help that they need at the time that they need it – and they’re just not getting it.”