‘It was a gut punch’: Shock expressed over impending closure of Penticton addiction treatment centre

When Penticton resident Kim Row learned that a local addiction treatment centre will be closing, she was shocked.

Row says her 27-year old son struggled with drug addiction for years before he began accessing services at Pathways Addictions Resource Centre.

“It was a gut punch, gobsmacked, furious, angry,” Row told Global News of the impending closure.

“It’s a longstanding threat to his life and he’s on a really good path right now, and that’s because Pathways.”

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Pathways has been providing addiction treatment services to South Okanagan residents for 47 years. It helps about 1,000 clients every year,

It offers all kinds of programs for those struggling with drug and alcohol addiction, as well as for family members, such as Row.

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“I use the service myself as a family member because I need that help to generate the support and understanding for my son,” Row said.

“This is a service that just can’t go away. It can’t.”

For the past 20 years, Pathways has been funded by the Interior Health Authority (IHA). But this week, IHA has announced that funding is coming to an end.

“They had stated that they wanted to bring all addiction services under one umbrella, and said they want to have kind of a one-stop shop,” said Pathways executive director Daryl Meyers.

“So they feel that it’s time that they repatriate the contract and do it themselves.”

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In an email to Global News, IHA said it wants to bring addiction treatment services in-house, adding all other major areas of the Interior have shifted to this kind of approach.

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The email went on to say that IHA wants to assure the community that no services are being reduced, and that, in fact, programs will increase.

IHA also stated it’s determined to make client transition seamless from Pathways to Interior Health.

But Meyers said offering a one-stop shop model can be a big disservice to those needing help.

“If anybody has a situation where they’re not comfortable going into a place, or there’s an issue with confidentiality or you know, they’ve had a bad experience, if there’s a one-stop shop and now they don’t have an alternative, somewhere else to go, they just won’t get help and those people will fall through the cracks,” Meyers said.

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Meyers also questioned the timing of the decision amid the opioid crisis, the COVID pandemic and Penticton’s homeless situation.

“This is probably the worst time to take an organization like ours and shut it down,” Meyers said.

Row said she’s concerned about the years of trust that clients have built with counsellors at Pathways being possibly destroyed overnight.

“I was getting the help I needed, but now I have to wait in line on a 1-800 number just to try and get an intake to speak to some random person in an office,” she said “It’s just not going to be the same.”

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Both Row and Meyers expressed concerns about how IHA services will be delivered and how long waitlists will be.

IHA’s contract with Pathways will end on May 31.

Meyers said while that is very little notice, efforts will now get underway to try and find alternate funding sources to try and keep the doors open.

“We are also looking to launch a fundraising campaign to be able to keep us going. We are so concerned about our clients,” she said.

“We don’t know what’s going to happen to them. I would like to see the community rally … and show support for us and working together we can find a way to keep our doors open.”

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