Lantzville treatment centre to offer detox services for Indigenous youth

Lantzville treatment centre to offer detox services for Indigenous youth

A treatment centre on Vancouver Island will be the first in B.C. to offer detox services specifically for Indigenous youth, according to the provincial government.

Youth struggling with drug addiction will soon benefit from the “first-of-its-kind” facility to open this year at Lantzville’s Ocra Lelum Youth Wellness Centre, which will offer culturally relevant detox and treatment services, says the province.

Premier David Eby announced the centre at a media briefing Tuesday, adding in a news release that “The toxic drug crisis is a tragedy, one that disproportionately affects Indigenous people.”

First Nations people are more likely to die from illicit drug poisoning than other people in the province, the First Nations Health Authority finds. Data from January to June 2023 shows they died at six times the rate of other B.C. residents.

Between that time frame, 222 Indigenous people died due to drug poisoning, which was a 24.7 per cent increase compared to the same period in 2022.

Earlier this year, North Island First Nations issued a state of emergency just days before local overdose advisories were issued. Gwa’Sala-Nakwaxda’xw First Nations said 11 people, a majority being youth, died in January and February.

Many of the deaths involved drugs or alcohol, the Nations told CHEK News.

Mental Health and Addictions Minister Jennifer Whiteside applauds the new centre, saying it will address a lack of resources for struggling youth.

“Offering supports informed by Indigenous knowledge is key to supporting them on this journey, so they can feel safe and connected to their culture while they focus on their healing in the short and long term,” said Whiteside.

“Rooting treatment for addictions and mental health issues in Indigenous knowledge has the power to transform a young person’s life,” added Eby.

READ ALSO: ‘Heart-wrenching’: Toxic drug crisis claims record number of lives in Nanaimo, surpassing Victoria

The centre, managed by Orca Lelum, will provide 20 substance-use treatment beds for those aged 12 to 18, with services available in phases starting in June 2024 as more staff are hired and trained. Fifty people are expected to work there.

“Ten of the beds will be reserved for short-term detox and stabilization,” says the province. It notes that the other 10 beds will support young people with addiction services through a 10-week, holistic live-in and culture-based program.

It says the centre will accept both drop-ins and continuous intake for the detox program, while the treatment program will operate up to four times per year. Trauma and grief services will also be provided some weeks.

Ocra Lelum is an Indigenous child and family service agency first established in 1994.

The province says it’s putting $7.1 million into the centre for initial funding through Budget 2023’s $171 million investment in Indigenous-led treatment, recovery and aftercare services. Island Health is contributing $1 million.

The treatment centre is expected to be at full operating capacity sometime this fall.


Ethan MorneauEthan Morneau

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