IF NOT NOW, WHEN?
2018 saw BC suffer more than 1,500 fatal overdoses in a single year.
The Interior witnessed 231 overdose deaths in 2018 with 55 of those occurring in Kelowna, our own backyard. 17 of those who died due to illicit drugs in our province last year were between the ages of 10 and 18. The rate of young people drying from overdose double from 2016 to 2017.
There are fewer than 50 publicly funded substance use treatment beds for youth in all of BC. Just four of those beds are designated for the Okanagan’s young people, between the ages of 17 to 24, and there are NO beds available to children under 17. Yet Statistics Canada reports 68,000 youth in Canada meet the diagnostic criteria for problematic substance use. While the majority of these youth will not need intensive treatment, the limited number of beds available does not come close to meeting the need.
At The Bridge, we have supported children as young as 12 through our Youth Withdrawal Management service (YD33). Here, they spend a mere 15 days housed with us. Many return to poverty, homelessness and life on the streets because treatment beds aren’t immediately available.
The majority of participants at Bridgeway, our adult treatment program, tell us their addiction began in their youth. This reported age of onset is typical and consistent with the literature. Due to systemic inequalities, cultural and structural factors, indigenous youth, youth in care of government and youth who belong to the LGBTQIA2S+ community are at increased risk to experience the negative consequences of substance use and mental health challenges.