Island Health issued a request for proposals for the program in late May. The Port Alberni Shelter Society was the successful proponent, and will open the service at Phoenix House on Dec. 1, 2016.
“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 Port Alberni Shelter Society is a non-profit organization that works with people who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The Society runs the Port Alberni Shelter, which was first established in 1972 as the Friendship Lodge. It has provided room and board accommodation and emergency shelter since that date.
The sobering and assessment program consists of two new sobering beds for people 17 or older, of any gender, experiencing intoxication due to drug or alcohol use. This means that individuals who face substance use challenges will be able to access a safe, supportive environment.
“People accessing this service will receive shelter, food and clean clothing. They will also be able to connect with further support if they wish,” said Jess McConnell, Island Health Manager of Mental Health and Substance Use services for Port Alberni. “This collaboration between Island Health and the Port Alberni Shelter Society will improve our ability to help those who need this type of assistance.”
Island Health and the Port Alberni Shelter Society anticipate that making this program available for those who need it will result in decreased use of other services, such as hospital beds and the RCMP.
The sobering and assessment beds will be staffed 24-hours-per-day, 365-days-per year.
"The Sobering and Assessment program will be a welcome asset to our community and fill a much needed gap in our service continuum,” said Port Alberni Shelter Society Administrator Wes Hewitt. “Over time it will help certain individuals make major changes in their lives and save taxpayers money on hospital and health care costs."
Funding for these beds 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, which will be achieved in 2017. As part of this plan, Island Health will achieve its goal to create 93 beds by the end of March, 2017.
Island Health opened five support recovery and stabilization beds in Port Alberni last year, providing accommodation and related recovery support for persons of any gender during the early phases of recovery from an addiction. Those in need of assistance can access support in a substance-free environment for up to 30 days for stabilization and up to 90 days for supportive recovery.
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