Vancouver Island Mental Health Society’s sobering and assessment centre provides front line help 24/7 for people struggling with substance abuse and addiction [image: centre coordinator Kevin James]
VIMHS now provides services in Campbell River
Vancouver Island Mental Health Society opened a “sobering and assessment centre” on July 10, 2017, in Campbell River. The Island Health-funded project provides front line help for people struggling with substance abuse and addiction. Its location, at 1330 Dogwood Street, is also convenient for folks relying on street level services for food and shelter, along with addiction challenges.
The VIMHS sobering and assessment centre in Campbell River is accessible
and available 24 hours a day at 1330 Dogwood Street.
The sobering and assessment facility is open 24 hours a day, offering up to nine sobering beds for short-term services (up to 24 hours) available to individuals of any gender aged 17 and older who are experiencing intoxication due to drug or alcohol use.
The presence of this accessible, safe, and staffed facility is expected to significantly reduce the use of hospitals, city cells, shelters, and public spaces for people who are vulnerable when under the influence of substances and/or in crisis. The space can be used to assist people in stabilizing and making a plan (if desired) to obtain appropriate medical care, supports, and resources to meet daily living needs.
The sobering and assessment centre has 9 beds; it has been running
at capacity or near-capacity since opening in July 2017.
Campbell River city officials welcome the centre
“We will be very pleased to see the sobering and assessment centre up and running,” said Councillor Ron Kerr, who has worked closely with local social service agencies. “City Council has long advocated for a sobering assessment centre that will offer help for people struggling with substance abuse and addiction.”
Mayor Andy Adams added, “This facility will be a valuable addition to the existing community services downtown.”
A Vancouver Island Mental Health Society spokesperson said the organization “is really pleased to be working with the network of service agencies and the City with this project. The sobering centre will provide a safe place for the night and connect Individuals to the appropriate community agencies to better meet their needs. It has been shown that this approach contributes to the development of a caring community and strong, connective communities are known to reduce reliance on external services such as hospital admissions and emergency room visits as well as strengthen individuals’ opportunity for recovery and reintegration into the community.”
Vancouver Island Mental Health Society human resources manager Gillian Baker
loads up the fridge at the sobering and assessment centre during one of her visits to
the site in August. Clients are offered sandwiches, if needed, upon departure.
Funding part of a province-wide effort
Funding for the 6 beds in Campbell River is made possible through the BC Government’s commitment to work with health authorities and the not-for-profit sector to create 500 beds across the province for people in need of substance-use services. Within Island Health, 93 beds will be created as part of the three year plan. As of May 31, 2017, 55 beds have been implemented across the Island Health region with 38 beds to be added in the final year.
Former B.C. Supreme Court justice William Davies issued a series of recommendations in 2009 following the death of Frank Paul, an Aboriginal man who died from hypothermia after police left him severely intoxicated in an East Vancouver alley. One of his main recommendations was the establishment of a stand-alone, civilian-operated sobering centre in Vancouver. Frank Paul’s death exemplified the need for sobering centres across the province.
Research conducted in Calgary, Alberta, suggests that “the effects [of a sobering centre in that city] appear to be highly encouraging, providing an option to divert people facing the difficult personal circumstances that might cause them to be publicly intoxicated, into a program where they can access medical support, addiction and recovery programs.”
Early stats provide a picture of individuals needing the service
Between July 10 and July 31, 85 people visited Campbell River’s new Sobering and Assessment Centre:
- 62 guests to the centre were men
- 23 centre visitors were women
- the average age of centre guests was 47.4 years of age
- 68% of CRSAC guests identified as Aboriginal
- 96% of visitors to CRSAC reported using alcohol prior to intake at the Centre
- 15% individuals reported using heroin, cocaine, and/or THC
- 62% self-referred to the centre
- 5 individuals were referred by the RCMP
- 9 individuals reported experiencing homelessness
- 8 guests reported experiencing mental health challenges
We speak with Kevin James, coordinator at the VIMHS Campbell River sobering and assessment centre.
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— People First Radio (@peoplefirstrad) September 5, 2017