British Columbia

Recovery house for youth struggling with substance use opens in Kelowna

A 16-bed voluntary live-in substance use treatment facility for young people has opened up in Kelowna, B.C.

Facility has been designed to feel like a home away from home for youth aged 12-18

Jamie McGregor, program manager for the Youth Recovery House, said the space feels like a shiny new home. (Dominika Lirette/CBC)

A new facility in Kelowna, B.C., aimed at helping youth aged 12-18 struggling with substance use and addiction has just opened its doors. 

The Youth Recovery House is a voluntary live-in program run by The Bridge Youth and Family Services, a non-profit organization that offers support for children and families in the Central Okanagan. 

There are 16 beds total, four of which have been dedicated to withdrawal management, more commonly referred to as detox. 

Program manager Jamie McGregor said withdrawal management can take anywhere from five to 15 days. 

"The other beds will be flagged for longer-term facility-based treatment programs, so upwards of three or even six months in some cases," he told CBC's Dominika Lirette. 

The program is funded by Interior Health, meaning anyone in the appropriate age group can access the program regardless of their or their family's income.

The facility has been designed to feel like a home, following many conversations with youth during planning.

"They didn't want to feel like they were walking into an institutional facility. They wanted to feel it was like they were going to grandma's house or they were going some place that was warm and comforting," McGregor said.

A total of 16 beds have opened up for youth aged 12-18 struggling with substance use in Kelowna, B.C. (Dominika Lirette/CBC)

Each room has a desk, en-suite bathroom, closet and single bed. Clients are encouraged to put up posters and personal items to make the space feel more comfortable. 

The Bridge says it will provide three healthy meals a day and access to education in partnership with the Central Okanagan school district, along with individualized, trauma-informed and culturally relevant treatment plans. 

McGregor said the recovery house has been in the works for more than four years, but over the past six months the plan came together and renovations began on the building.

"It definitely has the new house shiny smell on it and we're very pleased," McGregor said. 

"The landlord did a wonderful job. It is an older building, but definitely [remodelled] for our purposes."

A commercial kitchen has been installed at the Youth Recovery House to cook three meals a day for clients, and offer cooking lessons to anyone interested. (Dominika Lirette/CBC)

'Maybe it could have helped him'

Moms Stop the Harm advocate Arlene Howe has got to know the staff at the new recovery house and learn more about their goals.

Howe's son Steven died of a fentanyl overdose in 2015 at the age of 32. She said he had struggled with substance use since his early teens. 

Arlene Howe said that if something like the Youth Recovery House had existed when her son was in his teens, he might still be alive today. (Dominika Lirette/CBC)

"I recognize now in retrospect that problematic substance use wasn't addressed, nor was there a continuum of care that you would find here at The Bridge," she said. 

"If Steven had had access to these services when he was a young man, I think that he would have had a leg up in preventing his death. I think that maybe it could have helped him."

To listen to CBC's tour of the Youth Recovery House, click here: 

With files from Dominika Lirette