Bridge Youth hopes to improve addiction services in Okanagan

'We've had kids die waiting'

Addicted and at-risk youth from the Interior must currently be sent away to access recovery housing. There are recovery programs in place for youth in the region, but there are no recovery housing options with round-the-clock support staff.

"If the kids are lucky enough to get selected for the program, they have to be shipped off to either Vancouver or Prince George, or even out of province," says Celine Thompson, executive director for Bridge Youth & Family Services. "When they have to leave the area for treatment, they are forced to leave behind their support system, like their family and friends."

The wait list can be very long and selective, and many youth who are actively trying to seek help are kept in limbo waiting for treatment, says Thompson. And while these kids are waiting, it can lead to tragic results.

"There is a young boy who has been waiting for seven months now, and we can't find a spot for him anywhere in the province," Thompson says. "In these past seven months he's been actively using and abusing drugs, even though he's been actively saying he wants help. We've had kids die waiting on this list before."

Bridge Services has received letters of support from Kelowna, Vernon, Penticton, Summerland and Osoyoos for recovery housing for youth in the Okanagan.

Organizers have made presentations to officials in West Kelowna and Coldstream as well, and after that they hope to get started on a housing project.

"Our next step is to raise a million dollars to retrofit and staff a house we currently own in Kelowna to take in six young people," says Thompson.

With the documented support from municipalities in the area, staff will use it as evidence that the Okanagan, and the Interior, needs these services when they present the idea to the provincial government, says Thompson.

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