The Crossroads Centre for Alcohol and Drug Treatment in Kelowna, after helping to meet the needs of addicts in the Okanagan for 37 years, will be closing its doors in less than 60 days.
The centre owes more than $1.3 million and directors felt the operation as it existed (the operation was expected to lose $30,000 per month in 2013) could not be sustained. At the time of writing, there is a major hole in provision of a crucial part of public health.
As a result of this closure, 69 full- and part-time workers will lose their jobs and 59 beds for patients will no longer exist.
What, if anything, will replace the services provided by Crossroads is uncertain. The clientele comes from all parts of society, from professionals to the homeless, and from all age groups, so no particular group in our society will be unaffected.
What brought about this sad state of affairs is not obvious. After more than three decades, perhaps the original business model needed to be restructured. Certainly, annual fundraising is presently unable to make up the difference ($500,000) between funding from Interior Health and actual expenses. Attempts to rein in expenses were progressing but costs continued to rise.
What I found shocking were the comments posted online regarding the closing. One group lamented the closing, thought it imperative that something be done and wondered why Interior Health did not step up to the plate with at least $500,000. Just where Interior Health would find the money was not specified.
Another group said the addicts themselves brought on their condition because of their own actions. Why, therefore, should the public-at-large, especially those who did not use drugs or turn into alcoholics, pay for the addicts' treatment? Let the addicts pay for their own treatment. If the addicts don't have adequate funds, well they were silent about those cases.
I found these remarks particularly disturbing because I was brought up to believe that I am my brother's keeper and treating addiction is a necessary part of the health system.
A third group broke along political lines. Many said it was the fault of unions who demanded excessive wages, though no proof was offered to support this claim. Others said it was the callous attitude of a government that cares little about the health problems of (in many cases) marginalized members of our society.
Few of those commenting on the story of the centre's closing approached the matter in a calm and rational fashion. Few asked or offered suggestions as to what are realistic alternatives for meeting the obvious need for treatment. Just how alternative facilities, if indeed they could be found, would be funded was not mentioned other than by those who say "the government should provide the money."
Addiction, particularly drug addiction, is not a topic most of us enjoy talking about. The whole drug scene is viewed by many with fear and a feeling of helplessness. We spend billions on "the war on drugs" and have been doing so for decades and the problem just seems to just keep on growing. Obviously, that strategy has been a failure. In the meantime, the collateral damage, (the number of addicts and their families) keeps on increasing.
Simply saying addiction is the addicts' problem will not make the problem or its causes go away. We need a rational and thoughtful dialogue about drugs, alcohol and addiction. Yet governments seem reluctant, if not outright hostile to doing just that. Where is the harm in at least talking? Or is there fear that talk might lead to a demand for some effective action?
In the meantime, let us hope Interior Health can come up with some response to the closing of Crossroads.
David Bond is an author and retired bank economist. Email: