Island Health’s controversial Wellness and Recovery Centre on York Road is now scheduled to open sometime in the middle of the coming fall, instead of the mid-June opening that was originally planned.
A delegation from Island Health and its partner in the project, the Lookout Housing and Health Society, told members of North Cowichan’s council at its meeting on May 5 that the required renovations at the site of the centre at 5878 York Rd. began in March, and that a series of virtual community dialogues and information sessions with key stakeholders will be held in May.
Two of the three hour-long sessions will be held on May 19, with the first beginning at 11:30 a.m., and the other at 5:30 p.m., while the third session will be held on May 30 at 5:30 p.m.
A statement from Island Heath said the sessions are open to the public and people will be invited to register online to participate in them through Eventbrite.
The statement said more details will be available soon.
The delegation at the council meeting, consisting of Dr. Shannon Waters, public health officer for the Cowichan Valley region, Dana Leik from Island Health and Shayne Williams from the Lookout Housing and Health Society, also said Island Health will establish a community advisory committee in September with the mandate to try to build and maintain positive relationships among the community, the centre’s operators and program partners.
The committee will also be tasked to facilitate information sharing and dialogue, and identify and resolve any issues, opportunities and concerns related to the centre.
The committee will have approximately 10 members representing a cross section of community groups and organizations, including local governments, school board, business sector, neighbours of the centre, citizens’ coalitions and clients and will begin meeting just before the centre opens.
Island Health announced last April that the centre will be set up on York Road to provide a range of services to support people living with addiction and mental health concerns.
It will bring together primary care, harm reduction, case management, overdose prevention, and on-site treatment in one location.
Island Health doesn’t require the permission of local governments or communities to open such facilities, but many residents and businesses in the York Road neighbourhood have been advocating for Island Health to open the centre elsewhere and have been pressing local governments to intervene.
Coun. Tek Manhas said he’s in support of recovery services at the centre, but he doesn’t agree with the plan to move the region’s Overdose Prevention Site there.
“I don’t agree with giving drug addicts more drugs,” he said.
“I have a neighbour that once had a drug problem and he said he would have never recovered if there was a site like this where he could keep getting high. He went to a higher power and it helped him out.”
Williams said there is no 100 per cent fail-safe method to ensure recovery from addictions, but after operating such sites in 15 different communities, engagement is very important to vulnerable populations.
“We try to build relationships so we can get these people into recovery programs,” he said.
“Abstinence works for many, but our approach also works for a good portion of the population.”
For more information on the centre, check out the Island Health site www.islandhealth.ca/cowichan-wellness-recovery-centre.