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Local non-profit can meet demand for expanded addiction services within two months

The Bridge Youth & Family Services is appealing to the BC Government to invest in improving addiction and recovery services in the Central Okanagan to bring it to comparable levels available elsewhere in the province.

The Bridge presented to the Select Standing Committee on Finance and Government Services Wednesday morning to demonstrate how the Kelowna-based non-profit could use their expertise and infrastructure to have expanded service in place within two months of Government support.

“The Central Okanagan has the solutions but does not have the resources to effectively respond to the segment of our community who is desperately seeking our support for their problematic substance use,” says Celine Thompson, Executive Director of The Bridge Youth & Family Services. “As they languish on wait lists, we waste their fleeting moments of courage to get the help that they need and want.”

The Bridge highlights three areas in need of immediate improvements, which would provide care to people when and where they need it. As the largest community-based provider of substance use services in the Central Okanagan, The Bridge is at the forefront of supporting this community’s response to individuals and families impacted by addiction.

“This investment will increase access and responsiveness of the system, with people accessing the help they need in the most appropriate environment,” says John Yarschenko, The Bridge Youth & Family Services’ Director of Recovery & Addiction Services.

The first area of need is a local, live-in treatment service for youth under the age of 19 who struggle with problematic substance use. There are only 45 publicly funded treatment beds in the entire province, none in the Central Okanagan.

The Bridge is prepared to implement six live-in treatment beds for youth as an intermediary step while pursuing support to build a permanent 16-bed facility to serve local youth

Secondly, the Okanagan needs to establish rapid access to facility-based treatment for adults. The Bridge currently provides 20 publicly funded community based treatment beds serving alternating groups of men and women in six-week cycles.

Each cycle operates at full capacity and individuals often have to wait from one to four months for access. The Bridge proposes to create six additional rapid access treatment beds to help people safely transition from prior service and allow increased choice for people navigating their recovery journey.

The third identified area of improvement is withdrawal management services. In comparing the two largest Interior Health communities based on population, there is a need to expand service in the Central Okanagan.

The Bridge operates the only 10 publicly funded community beds to serve a population of almost 200,000. By comparison, the Thompson-Nicola region has 20 beds to serve a population of about 130,000 people. The current Kelowna-based service is over-subscribed, and witnessed more than 600 admissions in 2018/2019.

In order to have an equal amount of withdrawal management beds per capita, the Central Okanagan would require triple of what is currently available.

With increased funding, The Bridge is licensed to expand to an additional five beds at the existing site and also proposes to implement a mobile withdrawal management program to deliver valley-wide services, including dedicated access to the North and South Okanagan.

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