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Sobering and Assessment Centre to open in Prince George this fall

The centre will be a safe place for people under the influence to rest and be monitored

A new sobering and assessment centre located at the former National Hotel will officially be opening in the fall.

The centre at 1201 1 Ave will give people in Prince George with substance-use challenges access to services as Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Sheila Malcolmson made the announcement Monday at the still-under-construction building alongside representatives from Northern Health and Mayor Lyn Hall.

"People in B.C.'s North need and deserve a seamless, integrated system of mental-health and substance-use care," said Malcolmson.

"By adding a sobering centre and new complex-care housing, we are building a full continuum of mental-health and substance-use care for people in the North's hub city."

Malcolmson noted that the province is working with partners to bring complex-care housing to the north to support people struggling with mental-health issues and substance use, who have previously been caught in a cycle of poverty and criminal charges.

The sobering and assessment centre at 1201 1st Ave. in Prince George will provide eight to 10 beds that will be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, as a safe place for people under significant influence of substances to rest and be monitored. 

While there, the intent is for people to be connected to other health and social services and can access resources to meet their basic needs, including washroom facilities and a large space for showers, as well as space for staff and storage.

“The space we are in today is being renovated and turned into a much-needed service for Prince George one that has been called for by municipal leaders, health officials, and community members for several years,” said Malcolmson.

Sobering and assessment beds provide a short-term safe place for people battling substance use. Staff will monitor symptoms of acute intoxication to help people stay safe.”

She said sobering and assessment beds also serve to divert people who are at risk of withdrawal from emergency rooms or jails and can direct them to appropriate care.

Northern Health is currently seeking service providers to operate the centre and expects to have an operator in place this summer and have the site open for service by the fall.

"The sobering centre is one more tool in our action plan to support people living with substance-use challenges," said Colleen Nyce, board chair, Northern Health.

"Whether individuals are experiencing substance-use or mental-health challenges, or both, meeting people where they are is an important step in supporting them."

Mayor Lyn Hall noted the sobering centre was a big piece of the puzzle in addressing social issues in Prince George.

“The issues that we are facing are like a big puzzle and these are two major parts of the puzzle that we have been working on at the city with Northern Health and Minister Malcolmson,” said Hall.

“We are going to hear from people who would have hoped that this particular sobering centre was not located here on First Avenue. I have heard that message but once it's up and operational that is the key for me to show what this centre is all about.”

Hall noted that the sobering centre is not a “hang-out spot” but it is in fact a clinical medical setting for people to access services.

“I think it will make a drastic difference and I hope it does. I hope people realize we are trying to do something, and this is a big step forward.”