Interior Community Services says improved access to substance-use treatment is required to help youth in Kamloops.
ICS director of youth and clinical services Nicole Arnould told city council this week that there is a need for rapid access to detox and residential treatment for the city’s vulnerable youth.
“We need to really be pushing hard for residential treatment available in the Interior of British Columbia for our kids, so that the entire family system can come together within that treatment model,” Arnould said.
“Right now, a youth goes away for treatment. The family’s not involved in their treatment model. They come back, nothing’s really changed. That’s an unacceptable practice that leads to, I think, failure on our part as a system.”
Arnould said the Phoenix Centre does an “amazing job” offering detox services with limited resources, but is understaffed.
Phoenix Centre executive director Sian Lewis previously told KTW the facility, which is located downtown at 922 Third Ave. and provides first-stage addictions treatment, has a waitlist of about 40 people per day.
Lewis said the centre is geared at adults, but it can take up to two youth per day with licence exemptions, paperwork that ensures youth safety. Youth are prioritized, Lewis said, but that paperwork can take a few days to complete.
“It’s a bit confusing for the general public because they’re told there are youth detox beds in Kamloops, which is true, but they don’t often know this other piece,” she said. “It’s not separate beds. It’s not a separate unit. We do have to do these steps.”
Lewis agreed there is a need.
“Yes, of course we need to increase the accessibility to detox for youth,” she said.
Arnould said it can take four to five days’ notice to attend detox and services cannot be accessed on weekends.
The closest residential services are in Surrey and Keremeos. Additional barriers for youth seeking addictions treatment include transportation out of town for care following Greyhound’s closure and a lack of after-care in town.
ICS transports youth and provides after-care, but that work is done off the side of staff desks, Arnould said.
“At this time, B.C. has 22 non-adjudicated beds strictly available for substance misuse with youth,” she said.
City council previously voted to request a meeting with Interior Health to discuss a shortage of publicly funded treatment beds.
B.C.’s mental-health and addictions minister, Judy Darcy, wrote to the city after a meeting at the Union of BC Municipalities convention and said the budget for such services is “limited.”
She encouraged the city to continue discussions with IHA to find longer-term treatment and recovery options for Kamloops residents.
Council also heard from ICS of a need for 24-hour supported housing for youth.
ICS operates a youth shelter funded through the Ministry of Child and Family Development, in addition to street outreach and other programming. The number of youth accessing its shelter in the past three years has remained steady.
The non-profit agency said 58 unique youths accessed its four-bed shelter in 2018, compared to 57 in 2017 and 53 in 2016. Of those, only two youths last year fit the definition of homelessness.
ICS also operates a youth outreach program, which saw 153 youths on the streets last year, about 10 of whom were considered homeless.