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UPDATE: Sobering centre, complex-care housing coming to northern B.C.

The province is funding a new sobering and assessment centre in Prince George

People living in the north with substance-use challenges will soon have access to new support services in Prince George.

B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson announced today that the province is funding a sobering and assessment facility in Prince George, that the province said would serve the northern region.

In an interview with Black Press, Malcolmson clarified that while nobody will be traveling to Prince George, described in a ministry release as “the north’s hub city,” for a sobering assessment, nobody would be turned away either.

“We recognize that these health care interventions are needed in communities all over,” she said.

“We’re really trying to bring services to as many communities as we can.”

Malcolmson said details on another intensive level of intervention called complex care housing will be released “probably in the next coming month, I hope.”

She said the north is included in the more than $164 million allocated across B.C. for complex care housing for people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. A range of mental health and other services are provided in addition to safe housing.

“Right now, we are working with the Northern Health Authority to identify specific locations and operators. And we’ll have news on that very soon,” Malcolmson said.

Her ministry earlier confirmed that Northern Health has applied to open a complex care housing facility in Terrace.

The sobering and assessment centre in Prince George will provide as many as 10 beds that will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as a safe place for people under significant influence of substances to rest and be monitored.

“There are two rooms, each which have four or five beds in them. So that is an investment of $1.792 million,” Malcolmson said.

“The health authority right now has requests for proposals out and they hope to have the operator chosen probably in the next couple of months, and individuals can start to sleep in these beds this fall,” she said of that facility.

While there, clients can be connected to other health and social services and can access resources to meet their basic needs, including washroom facilities and a large space for showers.

Colleen Nyce, board chair at Northern Health, said the centre is one more tool to support people living with substance-use challenges. “Meeting people where they are is an important step in supporting them.”

B.C. included $164 million to open complex care housing throughout B.C. in its 2022 budget, which will serve as many as 500 people according to the province.

The ministry said in a written response to follow-up questions that the province is building a “comprehensive and seamless” system of mental health and addictions care while investing in services for the most vulnerable.

“This sobering assessment centre [in Prince George] and complex care are part of that work.”

People in surrounding communities in the north could self-refer to the centre for help if needed, the ministry said.

“Our government is also working with the Northern Health, BC Housing and local service providers to bring complex care housing to Prince George and the north.”

The sobering centre is expected to open in early fall 2022.


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