Pubdate: Sun, 09 Sep 2007
Source: Penticton Western (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 Penticton Western
Author: Tracy Clark


A new residential treatment centre opening in the  Keremeos area is 
good news say those impacted by the  project.

"At present I am struggling to find any negatives,"  said Joe Nitsch, 
regional director for rural Keremeos,  where the 42-bed centre known 
as The Crossing will be  located.

The facility, a public-private partnership announced by  Health 
Minister George Abbott this week, is the first  of its kind in the 
province where youth will receive  long-term residential treatment 
for addictions.

Don Duncan, medical director for mental health and  addiction with 
Interior Health, said while the majority  of youth with addictions 
require a shorter term  treatment, pointing out that IHA recently 
added six  short-term treatment beds for youth, the option for those 
who need a residential program has previously  been missing from B.C.

"It is a recognized gap in service," he said, adding  that IHA has 
seen increased need for youth addictions  services.

The Central City Foundation and From Grief to Action, a  parent 
support and advocacy group, have been working  with the province and 
health authorities to create the  program.

CCF will be donating the 58-acre property and leading  the $6 million 
fundraising campaign for the facility,  while the province will pick 
up the $2.4 million  operating costs for the facility.

Peter Spencer, a board member with CCF, said the  foundation 
purchased the property in hopes of  "jump-starting" a residential 
treatment centre like The  Crossing.

Jennifer Johnstone, president of the CCF, said the  facility will 
provide an intense therapeutic  residential community program for 
youth ages 14-24 that  will include counselling, peer support and 
offer  schooling. It will allow youth to "live drug free and  turn 
their lives around," she said.

Keremeos was the right area for the facility because of  its 
"tranquil and therapeutic" location in a  mountainous valley, located 
next to the Similkameen  River .

"There is a long history of the natural environment as  a place for 
healing and recovery," said Johnstone,  adding that the centre also 
takes youth out of urban  centres, but is still accessible for families.

While Johnstone said she recognizes that the  surrounding community 
might have some concerns about  the centre, the Portage Program for 
Drug Dependencies,  the agency hired to run the facility has a proven 
track  record.

"It's a proven system that has been going on for more  than 20 
years," agreed Nitsch, who along with other  local politicians met 
with civic leaders from Ontario  and Quebec where Portage operates 
similar programs.

An initial concern, that Nitsch expects some residents  will share, 
is that the program might bring drugs or  drug users into the 
community. However, because the  program is voluntary, people who are 
taking part want  to improve their lives and can leave anytime.

"These people want to change their life in a positive  way," he said, 
adding that the other communities also  did not see additional 
stresses on their local health  care system as a result of the programs.

In contrast, Nitsch said the program has had positive  economic 
benefits on other areas where it has operated,  as the facility will 
bring in as many as 20  professional staff who may live in the area. 
Renovation  of the centre, which is expected to be completed by  next 
summer, will also provide jobs in the community.

Similkameen residents will be able to find out more  about the centre 
at an upcoming public meeting. A date  has yet to be set.
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart