‘Ottawa’ The Dave Smith Centre is Expanding, But More Beds are Not the cure-all for Addicted Youth
If all goes according to plan, in a few years the Dave Smith Youth Treatment Centre will consolidate its two existing campuses in one new facility in Carp. The centre will then be able to serve 25 per cent more clients.
That’s good news in the wake of the counterfeit pharmaceutical-linked deaths of two Ottawa teens. In the past week, some parents have raised questions about waiting lists for treatment, while others have drawn attention to the need for help while teens are detoxifying.
The new centre, to be built on 10 hectares of land adjacent to the existing Dave Smith girls campus in Carp, will help address wait times. But it won’t be a cure-all, said executive director Mike Beauchesne, who says there’s still the need for programs like in-school counselling and education for younger students.
As it stands, Dave Smith clients wait from several weeks to several months to get into the residential treatment program. Parents are now on a waiting list until September to get into a parents group, said Beauchesne.
“It’s clear the demand is above the capacity.”
But teens have to be motivated to seek help. Only about 10 per cent of people with addictions problems reach out for assistance, and teens who use opioids often don’t look for help, he said. About 31 per cent of the clients at Dave Smith have used opiates at least once a week.
Construction costs for the new centre are estimated at about $7.8 million. The centre has about $1.4 million from the sale of its former location on Bronson Avenue, and has received a $1.25-million commitment from the United Way and another $1.5 million from the province. The remainder of the money will likely come from fundraising.
When the Dave Smith centre first opened in 1993, it offered a day treatment program for youth between the ages of 13 and 21. In 2010, that became a residential program on two campuses, a former corporate retreat in Carp for girls and a renovated farmhouse in Carleton Place for boys. The new purpose-built facility will have both in one location, reducing travel time for staff and improving economies of scale.
The genders will remain separate, including having separate spaces for dining, studying and recreation, said Beauchesne.
Dave Smith clients typically stay between 45 and 90 days. Treatment is provincially funded. About 60 per cent of clients come from the Ottawa area, with the remainder coming from elsewhere in Ontario. About 90 per cent of clients also have a mental health condition.
Sean O’Leary, a Kanata father, drew attention to the prevalence of counterfeit drugs in Kanata last week in an emotional open letter outlining his own travails in seeking help for his daughter, who used opioids and was treated at the Dave Smith centre. On Thursday night, a public meeting in Kanata on the subject of counterfeit pharmaceutical abuse attracted about 200 people.
Teens who use drugs often relapse after treatment, he said.
“Getting off drugs is like learning to ride a bike. You’re going to fall off many times before you can ride. You can’t look at relapse as failure.”
O’Leary said the Dave Smith centre is an important service, but there’s also a need for detoxification programs so teens are ready to go into a treatment centre.
“The first three to five days, these kids are so sick. Unless they are having a life-threatening crisis, there’s nobody to help these kids except for their parents.”
Beauchesne acknowledges that there is a gap in withdrawal management spaces. But having detox beds without access to treatment also creates a problem for teens who have gone through withdrawal but still have to wait weeks or months for treatment.
“You have to capitalize on a young person’s motivation for change. You don’ t want to have them waiting for weeks.”