Council decries provincial inaction, approves $30K to update business case for long-awaited sobering centre

$30K for sobering centre

Kamloops council expressed frustration that a business case for a local sobering centre fell on “deaf ears” for years, voting unanimously on Tuesday to refresh the documents for resubmission to the province.

Council approved $30,000 to hire a consultant to update the business case, with a goal of having it ready to submit by the end of the year.

During his presentation to council on Tuesday, Carmin Mazzotta, the city’s social, housing and community development manager, said the city had 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, and 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.

“We need a business case that doesn't understate the scale of need and demonstrates community readiness by showing a unified vision with all community partners signed on in support,” Mazzotta said.

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

Mazzotta said the consultant would conduct background research, including considering best practices at other sobering centres across the province, and would bring community groups together to reconfirm consensus for the facility.

“I'm really cognizant of the need for us to put our best foot forward possible when we're fighting for these kinds of provincial investments in terms of our health sector treatment and recovery,” he said.

Coun. Katie Neustaeter said she was supportive of the ask, but frustrated the city will need to spend $30,000 when it had a “relevant, ready, actionable” business plan ready for the province in 2016.

“I'm curious if there's any way we can also go back to the province at that time and say, ‘Would you contribute $30,000 back to Kamloops,’ because we had an approvable plan at the time,” Neustaeter said.

“All of these other communities were moved forward while we're left waiting again. And I'm frankly very sick of it, and sick of making up the dollars because the province sits on things for Kamloops specifically.”

Coun. Kelly Hall said he would be supporting the “long overdue” initiative.

“For whatever reason, it was falling on deaf ears and we weren't getting any traction,” Hall said.

“It's really important to understand that when you don't have partners playing in the same sandbox, it becomes very difficult for the city to do things that we want to do.”

Coun. Bill Sarai noted the communities that received a sobering centre “don’t deal with Interior Health.”

“it’s not the province that has to be totally blamed here, they probably have money available. It's our facility here, Interior Health, that is saying ‘No, we're okay. We're doing just fine.' Which I'm telling you right now, all of us know, we aren't doing just fine,” he said.

Coun. Nancy Bepple said she had first raised the idea of a sobering centre during a 2010 council committee meeting, with over a decade of consistent community support behind the ask.

“It's been brought up about 80 times in different minutes, across council meetings and committee meetings, there's been a strong sense of support within our community for the need of a sobering centre,” Bepple said.

“We've been working on [it] for a long time, we need to move forward. And this is a good step in the right direction.”

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