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New sobering and stabilization beds in Nanaimo now operational

Addictions services provided via Island Health and operating partners
B.C. Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson announces new addictions recovery services at a press conference outside Nanaimo Regional General Hospital on Thursday, May 26. (Greg Sakaki/News Bulletin)

New provincially funded beds to help with mental health and addictions care in Nanaimo are now operational.

The province announced Thursday, May 26, that in partnership with Island Health, four sobering and assessment beds and four stabilization beds created last month. The funding was announced last fall as part of $132 million for addiction treatment and recovery services in B.C., though local operating partners had not been determined at the time.

Sheila Malcolmson, Nanaimo MLA and B.C. minister of mental health and addictions, said the sobering beds are being operated by Vancouver Island Mental Health Society in the south end and the stabilization beds are being operated by Island Crisis Care Society in the hospital district. Both services have been up and running for several weeks and Malcolmson toured VIMHS’ Balmoral House facility earlier this week.

“The utilization has been phenomenal,” the minister said, mentioning that 183 clients accessed the service during April, mostly men, the majority experiencing homelessness, with methamphetamine the most common addiction and alcohol the second most common.

“People have found the service and they’re using it…” Malcolmson said. “The alternative would be for them to either have interactions with police, interactions with people using our downtown in irregular ways or else coming to emergency,” Malcolmson said.

The sobering beds are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week and “offer a safe place for people under significant influence of substances to rest and be monitored” and connected with health and social services, the release noted. Clients get care and supervision that hospitals can’t provide.

Taryn O’Flanagan, executive director of VIMHS, described the service as a safe place where “acutely intoxicated” individuals can sleep, be assessed and receive basic services and supports.

“People are supported by a team of staff that are compassionate, non-judgmental and ready to provide client-centred supports to meet the needs of the individual,” she said in the release.

READ ALSO: Nanaimo getting four new addictions treatment beds

As for the stabilization beds, they support people for up to 30 days “and include opportunities to connect with services to support their health and healing,” the release noted.

“We provide a place where people can stay for several weeks while they gain some stability, begin to connect with services, and think about what the next steps in their substance-use journey might be,” said Violet Hayes, executive director with Island Crisis Care Society, in the release.

Malcolmson said someone accessing the sobering beds might be there for a short period, then go to detox beds somewhere else, then take advantage of the stabilization beds before hopefully finding some sort of housing, though she noted that “everybody’s recovery journey is different and there isn’t a linear path.”

She said the eight new beds are an addition to six that previously existed for those sort of addiction services in Nanaimo.

READ ALSO: Province funding 20 treatment and recovery spaces in Nanaimo

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