Kamloops city council to decide whether to move sobering centre plan forward to provincial government

Sobering centre proceeding?

Kamloops city council is set to review the newly updated business case for a long-awaited local sobering centre, with the document identifying Day One Society as the ideal operator for such a facility.

On Tuesday, council will decide whether or not to send the sobering centre business case to the province for consideration.

A copy of the business case, which is included in Tuesday’s meeting agenda, said the establishment of a sobering and assessment centre in Kamloops “represents a critical step in addressing the escalating challenges of substance use.”

“The proposed sobering and assessment centre aims to address acute intoxication, offering a medically supported environment for individuals to sober up from drugs and alcohol and connect with essential services,” the document said.

Sobering centres provide medical supervision, shelter and assessment for people who are under the influence of substances. These centres are intended to reduce pressure on jail cells, emergency rooms and shelters, and help provide access to detox, treatment and recovery services.

The business case notes the impact of the toxic drug supply, which has only heightened since the request for a local sobering centre was first drafted in 2016.

The document cites statistics from the BC Coroners Service which indicates Kamloops and the surrounding area had the fourth highest death rate among B.C. municipalities in 2022, with a rate of 73.8 deaths per 100,000 people.

According to the document, the desired outcomes of a sobering centre include improved health and safety outcomes for intoxicated people, and improved access to services like detox, treatment and housing.

The business case said an operator should have the appropriate medical resources, a commitment to providing culturally safe services for Indigenous people, access to further treatment options onsite, and an accessible location.

“Successful implementation relies on a capable operator, initial and ongoing funding, community support adequate staffing and a commitment to cultural safety,” the document said.

“Day One Society is presented as the optimal non-profit operator, but decision-makers must secure funding and community backing for the initiative’s success.”

The document noted Day One would require funding and renovations in order to operate a sobering centre.

Talk of a sobering centre in the city dates back to the mid-2000s, and the city first submitted its vision for a sobering and assessment centre to the minister of health in 2016.

Despite follow-up inquiries, no progress was made on the matter. After a meeting led by Coun. Dale Bass last fall, B.C.’s minister of mental health and addictions asked for the documents to be resubmitted.

Earlier this year, council approved $30,000 to hire a consultant to update the business case, with a goal of having it ready to re-submit to the province by December.

Sian Lewis, executive director of Day One Society, addressed the need for a sobering centre during a presentation to council earlier this year.

“If we had a sobering assessment centre, not only are we redirecting people who need that health oversight while they’re still sobering up, so to speak, but also when they wake up the next morning they can come directly into detox beds,” Lewis said.

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