Children dying from drugs

Tears of sadness and consoling hugs filled the Laurel Packinghouse Thursday night, as dozens of people met to discuss the impacts the province's drug crisis has on youth in the community.

The event, Continuing the Conversation, was centred around the results of a recent survey put out by The Bridge Youth and Family Services about the challenges those looking to get off drugs face in the Okanagan.

Additionally, several new Okanagan service providers spoke about how they are helping young people.

“As a result of substance use, children as young as 13 have died in communities across B.C.,” said Celine Thompson, executive director of Bridge, as she fought back tears.

Just over 600 people filled out the survey, answering questions about the barriers to recovery youth face and Kelowna's most needed services, among others.

Respondents said youth are uncertain about where services in the community are or how to access them and long wait times pose a significant barrier for those seeking help.

The survey also found support for the families of young people who need help is lacking in the community, along with residential treatment programs.

Jamie McGregor, manager of Kelowna's YD33 youth detox program, said the only publicly-funded long-term youth treatment facility in the Okanagan is in Keremeos.

"They provide four beds for the entirety of the Okanagan,” McGregor said. “In Kelowna and the Okanagan there is a massive lack of treatment beds.”

YD33 is one of the Okanagan's newer youth treatment facilities in the Okanagan, along with Keremeos' Ashnola at the Crossing and Kelowna's Foundry.

Addicted youth usually stay at YD33 for five to 15 days, while they detox from drugs. McGregor says while they only service people aged 18 and under, they see all the same addictions as would be found in similar adult facilities.

“Primarily what we call polysubstance users, so people who are using whatever they can get their hands on, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, heroin," he said. “We see less alcohol than you would in an adult detox."

After a stay at the detox centre, McGregor says recovering youth would “ideally” transition to a longer term treatment centre. The same centres that have a “massive lack of treatment beds” in the Okanagan.

McGregor says funding for these services typically flows through Interior Health, but they're “open to all funding sources at this point.”

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