The opening of six new Aboriginal recovery beds in Alkali Lake, B.C., is a dream come true for addictions counsellor Ken Johnson. He's been working for the Esk'etemc First Nation health department for more than 25 years.
"A lot of people were just ecstatic because … some of our people here are still struggling in the community with their recovery," he said.
Around 50 people were at Monday's grand opening of the recovery beds in the new Alkali Lake Wellness Centre. They are a joint partnership funded by Interior Health, the Esk'etemc First Nation and the First Nations Health Authority.
"There's a very high need," said Interior Health's administrator of quality practice and substance use services Rae Samson.
"They fill a very important need… we recognize that we need to have culturally appropriate resources resources available for Aboriginal clients," she said.
One of the benefits of these new beds is that people will not have to travel as far to access services. Currently, people in Alkali Lake and other areas of the Chilcotin have to travel to either Kamloops or Merritt to access treatment.
Programming to start in spring 2018
Samson says although more beds are needed, these six will be a good start in helping to provide more services.
Ken Johnson agrees. He'd like to see more services come to the community, but he sees this as a "big start."
He says these beds will help provide support for people in his community who are looking to get help with their addiction.
"We are having a difficult time with some of our young people that still want to go out there and drink and drug, but the good thing is they don't have to do it as long as we did," said Johnson.
"It's no magic, it's just showing example."
The community is well-known for both its struggles with alcoholism and its transformation toward sobriety. Johnson has been clean of drugs and alcohol for the past 39 years.
The centre is set to open in the spring of 2018 and will help provide assessment, treatment, and community outreach for people with mental-health and substance-use concerns.