Council considering $30K spend to update sobering centre business case

New look at sobering centre

Kamloops council is considering earmarking up to $30,000 to update a business case for a long-awaited sobering centre — a facility many say will fill a gap in the continuum of local mental health and addiction services.

The funding request will be discussed and put to a vote during Tuesday’s council meeting.

In a report prepared for council, staff said sobering and assessment centres are meant to offer short term shelter and medical supervision for people who are in withdrawal or under the influence of alcohol or other substances.

“Currently, individuals who are acutely intoxicated and require assessment and sobering often end up in the emergency rooms, jail cells or shelters,” the staff report said.

“Sobering and assessment centres provide an alternative option within a continuum of care for clients struggling with addictions that can provide an access point to detox and withdrawl management, and subsequently, to longer-term services and supports.”

A business case for a Kamloops sobering centre was drafted and sent to the Ministry of Health several years ago, but no progress was made on the matter despite follow up inquiries.

Last fall, in a meeting led by Coun. Dale Bass, Sheila Malcolmson, B.C. minister of mental health and addictions, asked for the documents to be resubmitted to her ministry for review.

In their report, staff said the business case first needs to be updated due to the amount of time that has gone by since it was originally written.

“The existing business case is outdated and understates the scale and intensity of need for a sobering and assessment centre facility,” the report said.

The report said while city staff will support all phases of the process, there isn’t capacity to conduct all the background research, engagement and writing required.

Staff are asking for up to $30,000 from the city’s gaming reserve in order to hire a consultant who will conduct research and put together the updated business case before it’s submitted to the province.

According to the report, the new business case may include budget considerations, capital needs, programming details, and statistics showing the scale of the toxic drug crisis and the impacts of substance use on the whole community.

The business case will also summarize best practices put in place at other sobering centres, and identify the gap in services that would be addressed through the establishment of the facility.

Representatives from treatment and recovery providers, Interior Health, and protective and emergency services will meet to discuss the site, and confirm support for Day One Society as the identified operator.

Sian Lewis, Day One Society’s executive director, 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.

According to city staff, if the budget ask is approved, the work to update the business case will happen during the summer and fall months, with a goal of having the documents ready to submit to the province for consideration by the end of the year.

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