Kamloops city council to vote on re-introducing sobering centre proposal

Sobering centre revisited

The case for creating a sobering centre in Kamloops will once again be brought forward to city council, as staff will recommend a letter be drafted to B.C’s Minister of Health and Addictions re-introducing the request.

The recommendation will be before council on Tuesday, after it was discussed in December among the Community Services Committee meeting. If council approves the motion, Mayor Ken Christian and RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky will write the letter.

Committee chair Coun. Dale Bass says a major hurdle will be getting provincial approval, as city staff had previously prepared a business case that ended up getting stalled with the Ministry of Health.

“We just need to see something happening,” Bass says.

“Intoxication, whether it be through alcohol or drugs, is a health issue. And people with health issues like that should not be in cells.”

Bass says research has shown that in other B.C. communities, sobering centres reduce the number of intoxicated people who end up sitting in cells. She says this option may provide people an opportunity to regain control over their lives.

“It gives another option for the healthcare system to deal with people who have addiction issues. It also gives them the chance to sleep in a bed overnight, have breakfast in the morning,” she says.

“Every time you help one person, that makes the world a little bit better. So that’s what it is. It’s designed to be less judgemental judicial, and more, you have a health issue, and I’m here to help you.”

Bob Hughes, executive director for ASK Wellness, says there is an identified gap between enforcement and traditional healthcare systems, and recognizes the sobering centre proposal is attempting to fill that gap.

“We need a place that isn’t just an enforcement, but it’s actually a place where we can assess and help people to move from their serious dependency and their struggles,” Hughes says.

“This is definitely the city pushing on how to step up in managing something that the RCMP has determined is not within their wheelhouse.”

Hughes says that he’s concerned with ensuring safety for staff who will be working with people who are intoxicated, and that the proposed model fits well within the current system of care.

“It's vitally needed to have additional resources to deal with folks that are struggling with substance use, but we need to know how it all actually interfaces with existing systems,” he says.

City council is expected to vote on the recommendation on Tuesday afternoon.

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