Interior Health says there will be no impacts on clients when it brings addictions counselling in-house later this year, but the non-profit agency currently under contract to provide those services in Penticton isn’t so sure.
Pathways Addictions Resource Centre, which services approximately 1,000 clients per year who are struggling with drugs and alcohol, announced this week it has been told by Interior Health that its three contracts will be terminated May 31.
“If we start to close the drawbridge on all of the people who need services, we’re going to be in a very, very sad situation here in Penticton,” said Pathways executive director Daryl Meyers.
The three contracts were worth a total of approximately $500,000 per year and accounted for about 95% of Pathways’ total revenue, according to Meyers, who has seven counsellors on staff.
Those counsellors do far more than one-one-one sessions, she continued, including outreach work with those in need and even school presentations.
Pathways also works with clients’ families and other community organizations.
“People don’t just come in and get 10 sessions and that’s it. They can come and get a wide variety of services,” said Meyers.
Her biggest concern, however, is that people needing help with alcohol addictions will be treated as a lower priority than opioid users, who are caught up in what is B.C.’s other public health emergency.
“I know Interior Health is under extreme pressure to get the opioid situation more controlled, but the majority of clients we deal with at Pathways are not opioid users,” said Meyers.
“Alcohol is still the No. 1 driver that brings people into Pathways. Are they going to be at the top of the list?”
Interior Health said in a statement “there will be no drop in services for the clients” as the agency “works collaboratively with Pathways to transition clients from Pathways to Interior Health services.”
“Substance use services offered through Interior Health have changed significantly in the last two years in the South Okanagan due to the availability of emergency response funding from the provincial government. This has significantly improved the substance use services offered directly by Interior Health,” the statement continued.
“Shifting substance use counselling services into Interior Health provides the ability to support clients along the full continuum of care, distribute the resources more broadly across the South Okanagan and be more nimble in the response to change client needs and evidence-based practice.”
Meyers said Pathways’ board is committed to carrying on in some fashion, but that will require help from the public to identify gaps in service and call for Pathways to be part of the solution.
“We’re hoping the community rallies together and people see the need for Pathways,” said Meyers.
“Interior Health is going to pick up some of this, but its going to leave a huge, huge, hole in the community.”