The provincial government will double the number of youth addiction treatment beds in B.C., with the current 124 beds to be augmented with 123 beds over the next two-and-a-half years.
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Judy Darcy made the announcement on Thursday in Victoria.
Darcy said the additional treatment beds for youth is the “largest investment in youth addiction treatment in this province — ever.”
The new 123 beds will be in addition to the 20 at the recently opened Traverse treatment centre in Chilliwack for youth ages 13 to 18. That project was announced in the spring of 2018, as overdoses in young people were on the rise.
Darcy said discussions with health authorities will determine where the new treatment beds are needed. The new beds and associated programs have a budget of $36 million and are aimed at the 12 to 24 age group.
The first round of new beds is expected to be in place by the end of the fiscal year, with more to follow as health authorities find locations, plan clinical supports and complete implementation.
Darcy noted 60 people under the age of 24 died from fentanyl overdoses between January and June this year.
“I have sat with parents who have lost children in this overdose crisis,” Darcy said. “I have the heartbreak and the anguish in their voices and the pain that they will live with for the rest of their lives.”
Darcy said wait times have been too long and options for treatment have been too limited, something the new beds are intended to address. She said the beds will come with withdrawal management and detox spaces, residential recovery spaces and specialized treatment spaces.
When asked why the focus is on youth treatment when the majority of the 6,000 overdose deaths since the crisis was declared a public health emergency in 2016 involves older people, Darcy replied: ““We also know it is absolutely critical we start with our youth,” adding that her government has also added 150 adult treatment beds in the past year.
Dr. Kathleen Ross, president of Doctors of B.C., said access to treatment beds is an important part of a larger system of care for youth.
“The near doubling of treatment beds will help youth who have taken many courageous steps to seek help and cannot afford to face long waitlists or closed doors,” Ross said.”This is a positive step supporting the recovery of youth with substance-use issues and it is a part of a larger effort.”
Brody Van Velze has struggled with substance abuse since the age of 14.
“During my addiction, my life was filled with broken relationships, no respect for others or myself and poor decisions,” Val Velze said. “I have been clean for over four years now and I owe my thanks to the Last Door treatment centre. Because I was given the opportunity to have a placement, I have found a new path in my life that grants me happiness and healthy relationships with others and myself. I am thankful for the programs I was able to experience and learn from during my time there. I am thrilled to hear that there will be more funding going towards beds for our treatment centres, as more youth will now have the opportunity that I was given four years ago."
KTW has contacted Interior Health to ask how many youth treatment beds now exist in the region and in Kamloops and whether there is a waitlist for treatment.