Addiction treatment centre for youth to be built in Chilliwack

First of its kind youth facility for problematic substance use will take holistic approach

Chilliwack is getting a new specialized addiction treatment centre for youth, with supports like one-on-one counselling, recreation and life skills training.

Fraser Health is opening a “first-of-its-kind” residential facility exclusively aimed at youth 13 to 18 years old, with a 20-bed centre at 45456 Yale Rd, just past Kerr Road.

The regional facility will serve youth across Fraser Health, with treatment programs tailored to meet their specific needs.

The as-yet unnamed centre will be overseen by Dr. Anson Koo, physician responsible for Mental Health and Substance Use programs for Fraser Health, along with Fraser Health executive director Andy Libbiter.

If and when the Yale Road property obtains municipal rezoning approval for the land-use in the coming months, construction will start shortly after that process. Completion is expected by summer 2019.

“It’s wonderful news,” Dr. Koo told The Progress. “Now we don’t have to delay any longer and can move forward on this.”

Part of their job is ensuring it is operating professionally and “according to the highest standards.”

It will be the first of its kind in the vast Fraser region, as a specialized treatment centre specifically for youth struggling with substance use issues.

“Youth are particularly vulnerable,” Dr. Koo said.

Last year the BC Coroners Service report noted at least 25 youth fatalities, under the age of 18, from illicit drug overdose.

“That is what we know of. It is one of the reasons why this centre will be so unique. The way youth deal with challenges can be very different from someone older.”

The Chilliwack opportunity to establish the treatment centre was seized upon because there was land available of the scope necessary to build a facility, and the right partners to bring it to fruition. In Chilliwack, officials found both, said the Fraser Health official.

“Symbolically and practically it is very important that we have this facility located in the Fraser Valley,” said Dr. Koo.

“Like the rest of society, our youth are being affected the overdose emergency, so we need a strategy that incorporates treatment for youth at every level.”

It comes as a relief for the Chilliwack mayor.

“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 Mayor Sharon Gaetz.

“Chilliwack city council has been consistently advocating 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 contracted the Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS) 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 covers the operational costs.

“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 PCRS. “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.”

Dr. Koo talked about the range of approaches, from prevention, early intervention, to harm reduction, and all the way to residential treatment for substance use.

“This facility falls into the treatment arm. We need all of these elements to be strong,” Dr. Koo noted.

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Treatment will incorporate an overarching understanding of unresolved trauma, and the challenges of inter-personal relationships in the one-on-one and group counselling.

Fraser Health Authority had the highest number (377) of illicit drug overdose deaths with fentanyl detected in 2017, followed by Vancouver Coastal Health (337) and Interior Health Authority (200), according to statistical reports into B.C. fatalities.

Overall there were more than 1,400 overdoses detected in B.C. in 2017, with most a result of fentanyl poisoning.

The B.C. government committed $3.7 million for both 2018-19 and 2019-20 to ensure the sustainability of what it describes as “an important regional residential treatment facility” and to provide community-based supports. BC Housing invested $1.76 million to purchase the site and will fund construction costs, which have not yet been determined.

Programs will include comprehensive assessment, treatment and recovery for up to six months.

Treatment will focus on four core areas:

• One-on-one and group counselling to work through relationship concerns;

• 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;

• 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; and

• 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.

It will be geared to those who’ve been “unsuccessful in outpatient or day treatment settings,” and instead who may do better with a holistic approach to tackle to roots of why they use substances, and provide positive outlets that can contribute to recovery.

The centre will be staffed with residential addictions workers, clinical counsellors, nurses, a recreation lead and others. They’ll work with youth to develop individualized plans to address addiction and mental health, while developing the skills necessary to maintain wellness.

READ MORE: Youth homelessness tackled

Construction of the centre is scheduled to be complete in spring 2019. A rezoning for the property will be submitted to the City of Chilliwack for approval.


@CHWKjourno
jfeinberg@theprogress.com

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