The union that represents most of the workers at Crossroads says the closure of the Kelowna substance abuse treatment centre will leave an “unacceptable” gap in detox and addiction treatment services in the Okanagan.
The Hospital Employees’ Union issued a statement late Tuesday after the Crossroads board announced it was shutting the facility after 37 years in operation because of its debt, a loss of some funding and its inability to get Interior Health to increase its funding for the centre to a level Crossroads says it needs.
Crossroads announced Tuesday that it will phase out its detox and addiction counselling over the next three to six months despite high demand for these services.
That would leave the Okanagan without any comprehensive detox and addiction services programs outside a hospital setting, said the union.
The HEU said the resulting gap in services will be unacceptable and is urging the Crossroads’ board and Interior Health to resolve what the union calls “the underlying funding issues.”
“Leaving Okanagan residents without access to these vital health services is simply not an option,” said HEU secretary-business manager Bonnie Pearson.
“If the funding issues cannot be resolved with the society, the IHA should be prepared to consider other options to maintain these services up to and including taking over the centre’s operations.”
HEU represents about 45 workers at Crossroads including LPNs, night attendants, dietary staff, housekeepers, clerical workers, and maintenance staff.
After 37 years offering addiction treatment in Kelowna, Crossroads is shutting down.
The announcement, described by an emotional board chairman Alan Sanderson as a “very sad day” was made in part because the non-profit society that operates the centre could not reach a funding agreement with Interior Health for the publicly-funded treatment beds and detox beds it provides.
Crossroads has 46 publicly-funded treatment beds, 24 at its men’s facility on Franklyn Road in Rutland as well as eight publicly-funded detox beds. It also operates 14 publicly-funded treatment beds at its women’s facility on Grey Road.
In adition to its failure to negotiate a new funding agreement with IH, it also has a $1.3 million debt. While it also operates privately-funded treatment beds as a way to generate revenue, those beds have not been heavily used, say Crossroads officials.
“We can’t continue to operate the addiction (treatment) service and detox as it currently exists,” said Sanderson reading from a prepared statement, his voice breaking at times.
“We totally hoped that restructuring, redefining and reorganizing our operation and opening frank negotiations with our funder (IHA) would create a better future for our society.”
When asked about the timing, he said the decision was made now in order to avoid bankruptcy and help the 69-member staff find new jobs and not become creditors lumped in with other, larger organizations looking for money.
The society that operates Crossroads plans to sell the two Franklyn Road buildings , as well as the Grey Road building used for women’s treatment, in order to pay off its debts.
Executive director Shelley Gilmore, who has only been on the job a year, said the “writing was on the wall” for Crossroads when she started there.
But she said the board tried everything it could to continue.
“We have been so good on making it work with next to nothing, it has finally caught up with us,” she said.
While its debt had a crippling effect on the non-profit society that runs Crossroads, the failure to negotiate new funding from Interior Health, coupled with the loss of its annual provincial grant from gaming revenues last year proved to be the final nails in the coffin for Crossroads.
Society officials said while IH currently provides $70 per bed per day for the publicly-funded treatment beds it operates, the health authority was offering to increase that to only $92 per bed per day when Crossroads needed $132 per bed per day.
“IHA is not the only player in this equation,” said Gilmore. “Really, we’ve had funding challenges for years.”
Plans to help defray costs by providing 30 self-pay/privately-funded treatment beds at its three facilities had not worked out as they were not in heavy demand and faced stiff competition from other “spa-like” private treatment facilities both here and in other parts of the province, said Sanderson.
The plan to close Crossroads will not only mean 69 employees will have to find other work. It will also mean there will be no publicly-funded option in Kelowna for people seeking treatment for alcohol and drug addictions, and detoxification.
At Crossroads, the 46 publicly-funded treatment beds were regularly full.
Sanderson said the centre will likely close before summer, as there is a 180-day notification period for the detox beds and a 90-day notification period for the treatment beds.
He said the closest facility offering publicly-funded detox treatment is located in Kamloops.
Shannon Hopkins, Interior Health’s administrator for community integrated health services in Kelowna said the decision to close Crossroads treatment centre is a concern for the health authority and work is already underway to provide short-term and long-term solutions. She said that work started when Crossroads approached it asking for more money.
Hopkins said the current funding contract between Crossroads and IH was renewed last year for a three-year term and less than a year in, Crossroads asked for an 85 per cent increase in funding citing its other financial challenges. IH offered a 30 per cent increase but that was not enough.
She said Interior Health is committed to maintaining local services for residential addiction treatment and detox, but it is still “early days” in putting together a plan to deal with Crossroads’ impending closure.
Meanwhile, she added, it is important to remember that there is already a “whole spectrum” of services for substance abuse available here and the vast majority is offered by Interior Health and other community agencies.
“Right now it’s business as usual,” she said, noting the notification periods that are in place for ending both detox and treatment in the existing contract. It is unclear, however, if new clients will be accepted by Crossroads as it winds down its operations.
“We want to reiterate, we are committed to the clients and we will be exploring short-term and long-term options,” said Hopkins.