A new specialized treatment centre for youth facing substance-use challenges is coming to Fraser Health.
In a first of its kind for the region, Fraser Health is opening a treatment facility exclusively for youth aged 13 to 18 years old. The 20-bed centre in Chilliwack, which will serve all youth in Fraser Health region, will offer treatment programs that are tailored to meet the needs of youth facing addiction.
“Last year in B.C., 23 young people under the age of 19 lost their lives to overdose, a heartbreaking outcome of the overdose crisis that is devastating our communities,” said Judy Darcy, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “We must do everything we can to ensure that youth living with addiction have the supports they need to get on a pathway to hope and recovery, and this new residential treatment facility is an example of how we’re working with community partners to do just that.”
The B.C. government has committed $3.7 million in funding in both 2018-19 and 2019-20 to ensure the sustainability of this important regional residential treatment facility and to provide community-based supports for youth living with addiction. BC Housing invested $1.76 million to purchase the site and will fund construction costs, which have not yet been determined.
The facility will provide programs created with input from youth who have experienced problematic substance use and their parents, including comprehensive assessment, treatment and recovery for up to six months. Based on the understanding that mental-health and addiction concerns may stem from unresolved trauma and challenges with relationships, the treatment approach will focus on four core areas, including:
- One-on-one and group counselling to work through relationship concerns. When appropriate, a patient’s family members will be incorporated into their treatment plan to help strengthen these supports. Incorporating counselling in a group setting into a young person’s treatment plan helps youth to establish a support network among their peers, and reinforces that they are not alone in their recovery from substance use.
- Recreational activities to help connect patients to nature, including on-site green space to accommodate sports such as volleyball, as well as off-site activities such as hiking, swimming and rock-climbing. Encouraging youth in treatment to participate in recreational activities provides them with a variety of experiences that promote physical activity, build confidence and allow them to master new skills.
- A safe space to explore a patient’s cultural and spiritual beliefs to support their recovery and mental wellness, including collaboration with local First Nations for optional cultural learning activities.
- Training programs, such as continuing education, cooking and skills training, along with volunteer opportunities to support young people in preparing for the future when they are on the road to recovery. Providing youth with an array of practical experiences allows them to discover where their talents and interests may lie, and enables them to envision their future when they are in recovery.
“Addressing a severe addiction is a challenge for a person of any age, and this new facility will immerse young people who are struggling with problematic substance use in an environment that will provide them with the best opportunity for success,” said Fraser Health president and CEO Michael Marchbank. “Our goal is to support young people who have not succeeded in outpatient or intensive day treatment settings, using a holistic approach that addresses the reasons why they consume substances, and provides positive outlets that can contribute to their recovery.”
The team-based approach will include residential addictions workers, clinical counsellors, nurses, a recreation lead and others. They will work with youth to develop individualized growth plans to address their addiction and mental health, while developing the skills necessary to maintain wellness. Staff at the centre will also work with community-based teams to ensure youth are well supported prior to treatment, and upon their return to the community.
“Youth can sometimes be overlooked when we discuss substance use, but there is a need in our province for more support for youth living with addiction,” said Sharon Gaetz, mayor of Chilliwack. “Chilliwack city council has consistently advocated for increased services for our vulnerable populations and we are grateful to the Province of B.C. for working to establish these much-needed supports. Offering the tools to recover from addiction at an earlier age is an important step toward health and stability.”
Fraser Health has contracted the Pacific Community Resources Society to operate the facility, who will work closely with Fraser Health mental-health and substance-use professionals in supporting the unique needs of each patient. Funding for the construction of the facility has been provided by BC Housing, while Fraser Health is funding its operations.
“The opening of this new facility will be an excellent addition for youth and their families across Fraser Health who are dealing with the daily concerns of problematic substance use,” said Steven Esau, director of addiction services for the Pacific Community Resources Society. “By providing young people with a supportive, structured environment and a variety of skill-building experiences, we can help them to envision a life beyond substance use.”
BC Housing has purchased a site in Chilliwack located at 45456 Yale Rd. and will be paying for the construction of the centre. The project is currently in the design and program development phase, and, throughout the process, the project team is engaging with families and youth with lived experience to ensure the new facility provides a therapeutic environment to support recovery. Construction of the centre is scheduled to be complete in spring 2019. A rezoning application for the location will be submitted to the city for approval.
“Young people who are living with addiction need a safe place to stay, so they can focus on their health,” said Selina Robinson, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing. “The new facility will create an inclusive and therapeutic environment, giving youth enrolled in this program the best chance at recovery and a fresh start. These are the types of projects and partnerships that our government will continue to invest in, making life better for British Columbians.”
The youth residential treatment facility is part of Fraser Health’s multi-faceted strategy to address the overdose emergency in the region, which also includes prevention, early intervention, harm reduction and treatment. This strategy supports the work of the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (MMHA) to take action to save lives, end stigma, and improve access to treatment and recovery. Through the development of a comprehensive mental-health and addictions strategy, MMHA is working to develop a better pathway forward to solve the overdose crisis and better serve British Columbians with a system of mental-health and addictions care focused on prevention, early intervention, treatment and recovery.