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Internal Problems Close Okanagan Youth Treatment Centre

Internal problems, financial audits and a licencing issue has forced a South Okanagan-Similkameen youth treatment facility to shut its doors.

Portage Keremeos at “The Crossing” is one of ten substance abuse rehabilitation programs offered in Canada and the only one of its kind in B.C. The doors to the Portage BC centre opened in April 2009 with funding provided by Vancouver Coastal Health and Fraser Health Authorities. It offers long term residential care to young people between the ages of 14 and 18 and both girls and boys.

But on March 5th Portage closed its doors, following months of internal turmoil and licencing problems. According to Dr. Connie Coniglio, Provincial Executive Director of the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), the organization gave notice of termination on Thursday.

“They let the staff go on that day and we didn’t get notice of that other than on Thursday, we had been talking with them for quite a long time to get some agreements moving forward but were not successful with that,” she explains. “We’ve been working with Portage for quite a number of months on addressing some issues there including a licencing issue.”

In October the licencing issue was brought to the attention of PHSA and deficiencies identified by Interior Health. No youth have been admitted to the facility since the end of October as a result of these issues.

“Previous to that there had been some reviews by the Ministry and the Health Authority that uncovered some issues with the model of care, staff training and the transition of the youth back into the community,” adds Coniglio. “We were asked to get involved to help address some of these issues and build a new advanced model of care which we did do. Then we were asked by the Ministry to take over the oversight in April of 2014.”

Negotiations have been ongoing in implementing changes to ensure the site was safe and evidenced based and providing appropriate care. The PHSA even had to put their own administrator in the facility to address the licencing problems. Questions have also been raised on the financing side of things and Coniglio says they have initiated an internal financial audit of expenses at The Crossing.

The facility was built by the Central City Foundation and it continues to own and provide it under a no rent lease through the Provincial Health Authority. Jennifer Johnstone, President and CEO of the Central City Foundation said Portage was shut down because the two parties, PHSA and the operator, could not reach an agreement.

“We remain involved because we are the ‘community landlord’ and in this case we have a long term lease with PHSA where they don’t pay any rent for the facility,” said Johnstone. “We subsidize that annually. They are in turn obligated to have an operator there to deliver the programs and services. The break down in that relationship has led to the temporary closure.”

Johnstone is hopeful that the program will be up and running again in the near future and the services again provided to youth in need. There are 42 beds in the facility but those have sat empty since the licencing issues began last October.

*Photo Credits: NSDA Architects











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