Community voices concern over IH's plan to bring addictions services in-house

Concerns over lost resource

Residents of Penticton are voicing their concerns over an announcement this week that Pathways Addiction Resource Centre is having their funding pulled by Interior Health (IH).

“This is a horrible, horrible idea,” Kim Row said. “Pathways is an amazing, life-saving resource for Penticton. This is really important to me, it saved my son's life. And I find it frustrating...that they're just pulling the contract. I just don't see how and why they would do that.”

According to a statement from Pathway’s executive director Daryl Meyers, IH is moving all of their addiction services in-house to establish a "single point of access" and assistance in developing team-based care with their clinicians as of May 31.

Although Pathways will be working to prepare clients to transition to IH care, the plan of how this will happen is still unclear.

I am so thankful and grateful for the public outpouring of support for Pathways Addictions Resource Centre since the news of Interior Health's plans to "repatriate" their contracts with us. It just confirms the level of impact Pathways has had throughout the South Okanagan, the Similkameen and beyond," Dr. Sherry Ure, Chair for the Pathways Addictions Resource Centre said over email.

"Go to pathwaysaddictions.ca and find out more about us. We have been serving the Okanagan and beyond since 1975, where we foster the well-being of the whole person and their connectedness to self, family and community when dealing with substance use and addictions. The clue is in the plural addictions!"

Desiree Franz has been working with individuals who used to struggle with substance use and said it's been a a big topic of discussion in the community.

“I think the community needs to know there are thousands of individuals that have benefitted from Pathways Resources and while there may be some benefits from to Interior Health bringing it in house so its treated more as the medical condition it is, there hasn't been any transparency. Just all of sudden, ‘Hey Interior Health is going to do what Pathways does,'” she said.

Franz recently created a local Facebook group to help facilitate conversation on overdose prevention.

Penticton MLA Dan Ashton also added to the conversation, posting a statement to social media on Wednesday, addressing the closure of Pathways.

“Pathways has created long standing relationships built on trust. It is greatly concerning to me that these relationships that provide critically important services could become at risk,” his statement reads.

“I believe Penticton’s most vulnerable who work with Pathways deserve to have a full understanding of what these changes mean to them and how these same services could be delivered in a way that builds upon the same level of trust that exists today."

IH issued a statement in response to the concerns.

“Interior Health would like to thank Pathways for their many years of service and supporting clients in Penticton. Later this year we are bringing these South Okanagan services in-house to better integrate them into the continuum of care which will enable us to expand, strengthen and increase programs for people who need them,” their statement reads.

“All other major areas of the Interior have shifted their substance use counselling services to this same approach. By shifting these services in-house, Interior Health can expand support throughout the South Okanagan and provide more streamlined and seamless client-centred, team-based care.”

But some community members feel the services will not hold the same amount of trust that Pathways was able to provide.

“There's no trust, zero trusts in IH because they're struggling just handling what they can handle now and you're going to give all these people who have trusted, you're going to hand that over to someone else, who doesn't know their history, who won't have time to read their file, who won't answer the phone at midnight. There's just no way,” Row said.

“You can reach out to Pathways 24/7 and you will get somebody to reach out to you. Interior Health won't do that. They'll be a 1-800 number and they'll have to call and wait, it took six months for my son, for him to actually get a psychologist appointment when he was seeing a councillor at Pathways weekly.”

Franz added that the people who use substances already don't trust the medical system and feel they've been treated poorly.

“The way they're rolling this out is just enhancing that distrust,” she said. “They have a really big hill to climb and I’m really looking forward to having people who use substances, either currently or previously, stand up and say, ‘Hey nobody asked us what we wanted and now you're making decisions for us that affect us.’”

IH said it can assure the community it is determined to make client transitions seamless, adding no services are being reduced, and in fact, programs will increase.

“We would be pleased to report back on our transition progress in the coming weeks and months as progress continues,” they said.

"Please check out our GoFundMe page. Even a small donation could help us reach our fundraising goal. And if you can't make a donation, it would be great if you could share the fundraiser to help spread the word," Ure added.

The GoFundMe can be found online here.

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