Mayor's plea to re-fund addictions treatment centre rebuffed

IH not budging on Pathways

A plea from Penticton Mayor John Vassilaki has not convinced Interior Health to reinstate funding for Pathways Addictions Resource Centre.

IH announced in spring 2021 they were moving addictions counselling services in-house, giving Pathways notice as of May 31, they would no longer receive the provincial funding which made up 95 per cent of their annual budget.

Penticton city council members, including Vassilaki, have been vocal in their frustration with the move ever since. Pathways has continued to operate, but has moved to a fee-for-service model.

In early September, with the backing of council, Vassilaki sent a letter to IH president and CEO Susan Brown formally requesting they resume granting Pathways $500,000 each year.

"Simply put, the defunding of Pathways has weakened paths to substance use treatment and care in Penticton," Vassilaki write.

Brown's response will be delivered to council as part of their upcoming meeting on Tuesday. She stood up for IH's decision to transition their care model.

She wrote that substance use and counselling services are being offered at multiple locations in the South Okanagan, including the new Urgent and Primary Care Clinic in Penticton on Martin Street that was rolled out in the wake of their Pathways defunding announcement.

"I appreciate the concerns city council has raised about Interior Health's decision to discontinue contracts for substance use counselling with Pathways earlier this year. It is unfortunate that misinformation and rumour is contributing to frustrations locally, when Interior Health has made it a priority to support a smooth transition for clients and to strengthen services overall," Brown wrote.

"Thank you for your ongoing commitment to address the opioid crisis and to support mental health and substance use treatment in Penticton and throughout the region."

Penticton city council recently rejected a motion to explore a special funding partnership for Pathways with the municipality.

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