Recovery Homes Open for Youth and Young Adults on East Side

Operators say still huge demand for more treatment beds at time of opioid crisis


Reported by Becca Clarkson

Three linked recovery homes for young people dealing with substance abuse issues are now open in East Vancouver but operators say there is still a huge demand for more treatment beds to prevent further overdose deaths to that generation.

Devika Ramkhelawan, a manager of Vancouver addiction houses at Pacific Community Resource Society, said a combined 15 beds opened over the past two months at Youth Haven, Alder House and Sequoia House, whose locations remain undisclosed for privacy reasons.

“We always need more beds, and while 15 is great, it’s still just a drop in the bucket,” said Ramkhelawan, whose society partnered with Vancouver Coastal Health and Family Services of Greater Vancouver to open the homes.

Gap in services may attribute to higher deaths

The homes, which cater to people 16 to 24 years old, open at a time when Vancouver and the rest of the province continue to grapple with an overdose drug death crisis.

Overdose deaths were higher for young adults in 2017 than previous years. Source:

A gap in service for young people might account for why, according to the most recent statistics from the BC Coroners Service. A total of 23 people aged 10 to 18 died of a drug overdose in B.C. last year. That’s double the number of deaths recorded in 2016 for this demographic.

The overdose death rate was even higher for young adults aged 19 to 29, who accounted for 269 deaths. Metro Vancouver’s homeless count in 2017 revealed people under the age of 25 accounted for one-fifth of the city’s homeless population.

“It’s really hard to keep yourself safe and healthy if you don’t have a safe, healthy or supportive place to live while waiting for or after receiving treatment,” Ramkhelawan said.

Need for more services

Kyrsten Boucher, clinical program manager at Directions Youth Haven, said the centre’s beds are consistently full and the program often gets calls from young adults who have limited services available to them.

“Often the people we’re working with are not quite ready for adult services— their needs are still very much based in adolescence and adolescent development,” Boucher said in an email.

Mary Dowdall, manager of the health authority’s child and youth mental health services program, said Youth Haven is a voluntary drop-in centre that reaches youth who often haven’t yet accessed support services.

The harm reduction-focused centre, which doesn’t require clients to be sober, offers youth access to an elder, mental health and addiction counsellors and nurse practitioners.

At the end of a maximum month-long stay, the centre helps youth apply for a detox program, or a bed at Sequoia and Alder House, which allow clients to stay for up to three months.

“It’s all part of a continuum that will help us expand our services and allow for continuous care,” Dowdall said.

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