The looming closure of Crossroads Treatment Centre in Kelowna will leave the whole of Interior Health without any residential addiction program.
Centre officials announced last week they would have to close the doors permanently due to a $1.3-million debt and an inability to get an 85-per-cent funding increase from Interior Health.
IHA came up with a 30-per-cent boost, but that fell short of what was needed according to Crossroads administration.
Crossroads has eight detox beds and 38 treatment beds. While there are other types of programs in communities within Interior Health, the only residential program left was at Crossroads.
Dr. Robert Baker, whose expertise includes addictions, said Friday treatment for alcohol or drug dependence has never been a priority in B.C. It’s fallen under a variety of ministries, including children and family, labour and now, health.
“It will leave a serious gap in what is already seriously deficient service,” he said Friday.
People who seek treatment in publicly funded residential programs still have to pay a per diem, although that can be covered if they’re on welfare or fit another government category.
“For whatever reason, it’s been the very poor third cousin of health care. It gets what’s left over,” said Baker.
Often it’s non-profit organizations like Crossroads or, in Kamloops, the facility formerly known as Kiwanis House, that have provided the residential programs.
“They wouldn’t delegate cardiac care to a non-profit society,” he said.
Sian Lewis, executive director of the Phoenix Centre detox facility in Kamloops, said up to one-quarter of her clients come from the Okanagan.
Phoenix has 20 beds, compared with eight at Crossroads.
She expected the Kelowna closure will put more pressure on Phoenix.
“We are a regional resource,” she said.
Something will replace Crossroads, but just what that will be still hasn’t been figured out, said Cliff Cross, Interior Health’s mental health and substance use program director for community integration.
There are private companies providing residential treatment and IHA has a number of other programs that could fill some of the gaps, he said.
Those who need treatment will still get help through Interior Health through the range of programs available until the consequences of the Crossroads closure is sorted out.
Interior Health is examining other programs and services being offered across Canada. Fraser Health has a more mobile service around detox and treatment that’s being considered, Cross said.
One of the main addiction treatment programs IHA offers in Kamloops is offered through ASK Wellness.
Executive director Bob Hughes said it has 27 beds in apartments throughout the city. Clients stay for six months and are given help with life skills, counseling and other help to remain sober and independent.
Most of those clients were homeless to begin with, he said.
But for those needing residential treatment programs, his agency has referred people to Kelowna, Abbotsford, Chilliwack and other parts of the Lower Mainland.
Residential programs are intense and include medical care along with counselling, he said.
“But without Crossroads, there is no residential treatment facility in Interior Health.”
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A tale of two treatment centres
Six years ago, Kamloops lost its only publicly funded residential treatment beds for people dealing with addictions.
Now Kelowna is in a similar situation.
There are several parallels between the loss of Kiwanis House here and Crossroads Treatment Centre in the Okanagan.
In both cases, the non-profit organizations operating the programs asked Interior Health for more funding to cover their costs.
A 2006 report looking into the funding of Kiwanis and Crossroads said the Kamloops facility was “woefully underfunded” getting $39 a day per bed, while Crossroads was receiving $62 a day.
Crossroads is now getting $92 a day per bed, but told IHA it needed $132 to stay viable.
Both facilities operated for 37 years when they faced closure. Kiwanis House had a debt of $400,000; Crossroads owes $1.3 million.
Kiwanis had 21 beds, while Crossroads has 46.
Both closures resulted in a shakeup of treatment programs for addictions.
In the case of Kamloops, there’s been no replacement of a residential treatment program. Instead, Interior Health provides counsellors and other day programs, along with supportive housing beds.
Interior Health has said it doesn’t want to lose a residential program entirely and options are under review.
When Kiwanis House shut down permanently, a group of investors — most with an interest or expertise in addictions — bought the buildings and reopened them as the Sage Health Centre, a private-pay residential addictions program. The centre has attracted addictions experts, including some from Interior Health.