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Selkirk addictions facility for youth in danger

Lack of CFS referrals creating funding crunch

They offer an important service to Manitoba teens struggling to escape addiction and get their troubled lives back on track.

But now a long-term provincial treatment centre is on life support due to a funding crisis.

Officials with the male youth services program, which is run by the Behavioural Health Foundation in Selkirk, confirmed Tuesday the 16-bed facility is slated to close Aug. 22. New patients haven't been accepted for weeks in anticipation of the move.

"It's a shame," said defence lawyer John Corona. "The program is vitally important and may be the best in the province for youth treatment. Programs like this give at-risk kids a chance and there are so few beds already. I hope they can work something out."

Added another veteran city defence lawyer, who has seen many clients benefit from what is commonly known as the Selkirk Healing Centre: "The cycle continues."

Jean Doucha, executive director of the BHF, said it will be a sad day if a solution can't quickly be found. Talks with the provincial government are ongoing and a critical meeting is set for next week to discuss the future.

"Everyone is working hard to try and find a way to keep it open," Doucha told the Free Press Tuesday.

The facility has been operating since 1995, and is one of the few in the province to offer residential drug treatment on a long-term basis for males aged 12 to 17.

 

Patients typically stay for a four- to six-month period, said Doucha. They are all classified as Level Five individuals, meaning they are at the highest risk. Most have had some involvement in the youth justice system, and a majority are wards of Child and Family Services. It is an extremely tough, labour-intensive program that has been very successful in the past.

"The boys are involved in a lot of activities to try and lure them away from the drug addictions," she said. "The youth that come to us have a whole lot of issues."

Ironically, Doucha said, one of the biggest reasons for the financial shortfall is the facility isn't always operating at 100 per cent capacity.

Although the five beds designated for private family referrals are usually filled, the 11 beds reserved for CFS-diverted patients often are not. This means not enough income is being generated by the fee-for-service model they employ. In a nutshell, CFS isn't sending enough teens their way who are willing to participate in what they offer.

"A lot of kids don't want to go into this type of long-term treatment," said Doucha. "Not a lot of the kids are there willingly."

She said their remote location has also made it difficult to get capacity much higher than about 75 per cent.

Doucha said they aren't having the same problems with their 16-bed female youth facility in St. Norbert, which is often at or near capacity and isn't in danger of shutting down.

www.mikeoncrime.com

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