The controversial Wellness and Recovery Centre on York Road officially opened its doors on Monday, Nov. 1.
The centre, based at 5878 York Rd. in North Cowichan, is operated by Island Health in partnership with Lookout Housing and Health Society.
Together, these organizations will offer a broad range of mental health and substance-use services at the site that focus on prevention, intervention, treatment and recovery.
The services include more capacity for inhalation-focused overdose prevention services (an increasing number of drug users are using inhalation instead of injection), and access to vital health-care resources such as clinical areas and exam rooms.
Island Health’s Overdose Prevention Centre on Trunk Road, which has been operation for years, closed its doors for the last time on Oct. 31 and its services are now being offered at the centre.
“There’s a rising tide of need for mental health and substance-use services in every part of B.C.,” said Sheila Malcolmson, minister of Mental Health and Addictions who visited the centre on Nov. 5.
“This new centre will make life-saving services and treatment available at one location. I am grateful for the partnership between Island Health and Lookout Housing and Health Society to provide a comprehensive and caring approach that will connect people with the services they need and support them on their wellness journeys.”
Malcolmson said the connections made between people who use the centre’s services and those that provide them will build trust and relationships for many that have been alienated due to racism and other forms of discrimination, and the team at the centre can then get at the root of their addictions and get them the help they need to better their lives.
“The Wellness and Recovery Centre is a unique program in the province, with most models like it in larger centres like Vancouver and Victoria,” she said.
“It’s a real compliment that this centre received federal funding for some of its programs.”
Health Canada has provided a grant totalling more than $1.5 million for the centre’s Tablet Injectible Opioid Agonist Therapy program, which is a medication-assisted treatment for people who have not benefited from other treatment options and are at high risk of overdose.
This life-saving initiative will provide pharmaceutical-grade medications as an alternative to the toxic drug supply.
As for the concerns raised by many neighbouring residents and businesses that the centre will negatively impact the York Road area, which is already facing many social challenges, Malcolmson said the centre will help stabilize the neighbourhood and get people off the streets.
Malcolmson said building supports for those that need it is an appropriate way for people to care, and all who need it should have access to the centre’s programs.
“I’m encouraged by the level of support the centre has received by all levels of governments, Cowichan Tribes and other organizations in the region,” she said.
“The community advisory committee and other structures that Island Health has established will identify the problems in the community and find ways to mitigate them. Members of Lookout Housing and Health Society’s team will also go out into the community and connect with people who need the centre’s help and inform them that the centre is a respectful and dignified place to seek care.”
Leah Hollins, chair of Island Health’s board of directors, said the health authority is grateful to all the community members who have generously volunteered their time to the community advisory committee, which includes members of the public, local governments, first responders, Cowichan Tribes, service providers and residential and commercial neighbours of the centre.
“Their insights will be invaluable to the success and sustainability of the Wellness and Recovery Centre,” he said.
CAC’s first meeting was held in October, and meetings will occur regularly.