Island Health responds to request to pause wellness centre planning

The health authority says there is no other option for the location of the controversial facility.

The Discourse will continue to follow this issue in the coming weeks and months. What questions do you still have? What would you like to better understand? What would you ask Island Health, or local politicians, if you had the chance? Please email me at [email protected] so I can better serve this community.

Island Health has responded to a letter from the mayor of North Cowichan asking it to pause planning on a wellness and recovery centre until after consultation on the location. 

Island Health plans to open the centre in June 2021 at 5878 York Rd. It will be the new location of the Overdose Prevention Site, currently located on Trunk Road in Duncan, as well as additional treatment and services for people with mental health and substance use challenges. This document more fully explains the proposed services. 

At a council meeting on Aug. 19, North Cowichan Mayor Al Siebring proposed writing a letter to Island Health in support of the expanded services at the wellness centre, but objecting to the lack of consultation with the municipality, residents and businesses on the proposed location. 

The location is across the street from the Warmland House shelter and in a neighbourhood with a high number of complaints regarding crime, drug use and public disorder. Some residents have formed a citizens’ action group in opposition to the location, citing the number of nearby schools. They are planning a protest in the area on Saturday, Sept. 19.

Island Health’s response says that, after a long search, there was no other option for the location. 

“This process was ongoing for over a year, involved extensive discussions with Island Health’s Capital Planning team, a local real estate agent, owners of publicly-owned properties at both the provincial and local level, and a public Request for Proposal seeking space. This extensive search resulted in only one site option emerging – 5878 York Avenue. Given the dual public health emergencies of the opioid crisis and COVID-19, and this location being very accessible to clients, Island Health entered into a lease agreement.”

The letter, signed by Island Health vice president James Hanson, states that Lookout Housing and Health Society, which has been contracted to manage the facility, is committed to community engagement on the service model. But, given that no alternate site exists, planning and renovations will continue. 

The full letter is available online, via the North Cowichan website. [end]

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