B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake says a new sobering centre in Port Alberni will provide people with substance use challenges 'a safe place to help them take that first step to turn their lives around.'

Alberni gets new sobering and assessment centre

Port Alberni Shelter Society will run new two-bed program at Phoenix House starting Dec. 1.

A new sobering centre will open in Port Alberni on Dec. 1. The two beds will be funded by Island Health (VIHA) and operated by Port Alberni Shelter Society, which successfully won a bid for the service, shelter society executive director Wes Hewitt said.

“This (centre) is to divert people from hospital emergency stays and unnecessary stays with the RCMP, or for people who are under the influence and can’t stay in the shelter,” he explained.

The sobering and assessment program will provide a safe space for those aged 17 and older of any gender to access short-term services to help with substance use challenges, according to Island Health.

The beds will be located at Phoenix House and will be operated by PA Shelter Society staff.

“Those dealing with challenges around substance use in central Vancouver Island will have a safe place to help them take that first step to turn their lives around,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “This program will provide a secure and welcoming environment that reflects our commitment to ensure community supports for British Columbians who struggle with drugs or alcohol.”

The shelter society has provided room and board accommodation and emergency shelter since 1972, and the sobering centre adds another facet to its services.

“People accessing this service will receive shelter, food and clean clothing,” said Jess McConnell, Island Health manager of mental health and substance use services in Port Alberni.

“They will also be able to connect with further support if they wish. This collaboration between Island Health and the Port Alberni Shelter Society will improve our ability to help those who need this type of assistance.”

The sobering and assessment beds will be staffed 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, McConnell said.

Funding for the beds comes from the BC government’s commitment to work with health authorities and the non-profit sector to create 500 beds across the province in 2017 for people in need of substance use services.

Island Health has a goal to create 93 such beds by March 2017.

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