About nine years ago, in the fall of 1998, a group of parents and other family members began to meet in the lounge of St. Mary's Church, Kerrisdale. Many came from comfortable homes in the neighbourhood, most were professionals. The surprising and tragic thing that they had in common, however, was that they were experiencing drug addiction in their family, and they were having great difficulty in accessing the help and care their children needed.

Fed up with long-term waiting lists for short-term and woefully inadequate treatment, these parents decided to speak out. Determined to raise awareness of drug use as a health issue, they called for the establishment of a comprehensive continuum of care for drug users which met their needs for harm reduction, detoxification, treatment and rehabilitation, in order that they might achieve and maintain healthy, productive lives. Assisted in a multitude of ways by Kevin Dixon, the rector of St. Mary's, the group formed themselves into a non-profit society, and called themselves "From Grief to Action".

One member of the group was a film director: she made a documentary entitled "From Grief to Action" which followed the lives of four families from the group: it aired originally on CBC's "The Passionate Eye" in November 2002 and has been repeated several times since. Another member was passionate about providing regular and on-going support on a group basis: she started "Parents Forever", which meets every other Friday at St. Mary's and has recently celebrated its seventh anniversary. In May 2003 a "Coping Kit" was launched, written especially for parents and families who are struggling with addiction, which suggests ideas and strategies for helping with day-to-day issues - this is now in its third edition.

Rob and Susie Ruttan of St. Mary's Kerrisdale, at left, watch as Lauren Gill and Christine Meyer, graduates of the Portage therapeutic community program, along with BC Health Minister George Abbott, cut a cake to mark the province's decision to permanently fund a residential treatment centre for youth with serious drug problems. Also pictured is Ida Goodreau of Vancouver Coast Health. (Photo by Madeline Ell of Karyo Edelman)

From Grief to Action members have, over the years, written letters, made presentations at conferences, given interviews on radio, television, and in newspapers. In the spring of 2000 one such interview, with Kathryn Gretsinger of CBC radio, which was stressing how disgraceful it was that B.C. did not have a single long-term treatment bed for youth, was heard by a director of Central City Foundation. He brought the families' message to his board and Central City decided it must do something for BC youth ensnared by addiction. Within a short space of time, they had purchased the 58-acre adventure ranch near Keremeos which had been used as an Outward Bound centre.

Two members of FGTA, Susie (who sings in the St. Mary's choir) and Rob Ruttan (who is a regular lesson reader), had sent their son out of the province to a program in the east called Portage. They were so impressed that they determined that the Portage therapeutic community program was just what was needed in B.C. Through thick and thin over the next seven years they hung in providing the family perspective, and being, as they put it themselves, "a thorn in the side of the powers that be, a squeaky wheel, a constant reminder that every delay entailed more suffering for youth and their families in B.C. "

They became members of a Steering Committee of professionals from the Vancouver Coastal and Fraser Health Authorities, representatives from Central City Foundation and also from Portage which struggled to overcome a variety of challenges. The congregation of St. Mary's followed the Ruttans on the roller coaster during annual reports as to the progress - or lack of it - towards the goal.

On September 6th of this year members of FGTA had the great pleasure of participating in the press conference at which the Minister of Health, George Abbott, announced that B.C.will finally have a long-term residential treatment centre for youth on the Central City site, now known as "The Crossing at Keremeos". The provincial government publicly committed to providing annual operating funds of $2.4 million, and the Minister commented that "with this project, we are indeed moving from grief to action."

An open house in Keremeos in late October informed people in the community about the plans for the new treatment centre. Despite some fears of opposition to the project, the overwhelming response was positive, warm and welcoming.  Some $6 million must be raised for renovations to existing buildings and construction of new ones. FGTA members will be tirelessly engaged in helping to raise these funds, inspired by the knowledge that the end is now in sight - or, in fact, the beginning ... of a long term residential treatment centre for youth in B.C.

A seed planted at a supportive, caring and open-minded Anglican church in the heart of Kerrisdale will bear fruit in the spectacular mountains of the Kootenays, and lives will be saved.