Detox and residential treatment for addicts will stay in Kelowna, says Interior Health, but there's not much time before Crossroads closes.
With the treatment centre shutting its doors in five months, IH is scrambling to find a way to help people kick their addictions by then.
Administrators are working to "minimize the impact" on clients so they continue getting treatment, said Shannon Hopkins, who manages community integration for the health authority in Kelowna.
"Our intention is to continue to provide detox services and residential treatment in (Kelowna)," she said hours after 60 people protested against the closure Tuesday.
"There's some time for us to come up with a short-term solution so we can mitigate the chance of there being a gap in service."
Making a plan can't come soon enough for the clients and 68 staff who depend on Crossroads, the only residential facility in the Okanagan that treats people hooked on drugs and alcohol. Many of them marched from MLA Norm Letnick's office to the centre on Franklyn Road to highlight the urgency.
"Time's ticking on quickly," said Debra Critchley of the B.C. Government Employees Union. "IH needs to step up and live up to their responsibility, not only to people who get the service but the community as a whole because any one of us could need this service tomorrow."
The facility faces a $1.3 million debt. The society that operates it announced Jan. 9 it will stop providing residential treatment in 90 days and detox services in six months.
Forty-six of the publicly funded beds are full most of the year. People travel from throughout the Interior and beyond for treatment that in many cases saves people's lives.
Dean Desousa of Vancouver said Crossroads is the best place anywhere - and he's undergone several stints of residential treatment. He's addicted to heroin and cocaine, but plans to stay clean once he finishes his 42-day program Feb. 7.
"It (the closure) is going to put a lot of people in a lot of trouble," said Desousa, 33, on Tuesday. "Where are people going to go? . . . I can't understand how they're going to let a place like this shut down."
His friend Seamus Small, 42, is hooked on the same drugs as well as alcohol. He spent time in detox to "go through some adversity" before he could start the residential treatment. Now he plans to be a father to his six-year-old daughter and a son to his parents.
"It's about mental illness too. I'm so disappointed this facility is going to close because there's a lot of people who are going to be hurt. A lot of people might die because of this," he said.
IH grants Crossroads $1.7 million a year toward the facility's $3.5-million operating budget. The society asked for an 85-per-cent hike in funding, but the authority could only provide 30 per cent, said Hopkins.
Administrators only learned about the closure on Jan. 3, she said. Since then they've met several times with the society to work out short-term solutions.
It's too early to say whether IH might extend the society's contract or award it to another operator, Hopkins said. The authority is "looking to find options" for residential treatment and detox services that serve local clients and other Interior residents in Kelowna.
"Our interest in the immediate future is to serve clients in Kelowna and Interior Health," she said.
Union members insist that the service stays publicly funded. Mike Nuyens of the BCGEU told the rally that staff and clients won't accept having to pay privately.
"Treatment and detox are expensive. People will not be able to afford to seek out treatment elsewhere and will not be able to pay for private treatment."