Wellness organization sets eyes on sober centre for Brandon

·4 min read

The Community Wellness Collaborative is gaining momentum in Brandon and is ready to take on its first official project — establishing a “sobering centre” for the community.

Community Wellness Collaborative (CWC) chair Kim Longstreet said the sobering centre is building on the group’s goal of working collaboratively with stakeholders to create a healthier community. Collaborators of the CWC believe the intersectional challenges faced by the community will require innovative and transformative actions to complement existing services.

“When people think of wellness they think of health right away, but I like to remind people that wellness in a community means … how you treat your community as well,” Longstreet said. “We know this is the right way to go. Wellness is a term that everyone is using. We have to learn to treat people better and treat people properly. It doesn’t matter what [setting you’re in].”

The group recently completed its official terms of reference and is now working to establish a set of bylaws and hold an official election. The next step will be refining the vision for the sobering centre.

Longstreet said the CWC’s hope is that while people are at the centre, it could possibly play a role in helping them progress towards getting help and treatment by pointing them towards different community services.

There has been an ongoing conversation over the last four years about the importance of collaboration between service providers to contribute more effective and holistic offerings in the committee. The sobering centre will serve to enhance this vision.

The centre will also be a place of safety where people can go for help because they will not be turned away for being inebriated.

Longstreet said the Manitoba Department of Justice has earmarked about $2 million for the project to ensure it moves ahead.

The CWC will serve as a go-to spot where people in need can access help through the process of dealing with social services. Longstreet said the group is centred on wellness as a whole and offers people stigma-free support.

“It’s all about wellness. Whether it’s mental health wellness, community wellness — everybody matters” Longstreet said. “It’s [developing] healthy minds, healthy community, healthy relationships.”

She appreciates the support the group has received from the community and is excited to show people what is possible when different social organizations work together. The group’s ongoing dialogue regarding wellness has also involved working with the government to better understand how community wellness, including addictions and mental health, can be better approached.

“A lot of people when they are in, say a meth psychosis, they’re going to [the] ER because they’re feeling desperate feelings of suicide and all these other feelings are happening. ER is not the right place for that,” Longstreet said. “If they came to a sobering centre, where there are people who had the time, and the understanding, and the skills to be able to manage that, they’re taking off the burden [from the ER].”

She added the facility will also serve to ease the burden on Brandon Police Service who are often forced to pick up those in distress due to substance abuse.

Longstreet has been talking to a facility in Thompson that received funding for a sobering centre. The centre includes a special type of officer which has been put in place at the facility, who has the authority to bring people to the sobering centre without police intervention.

“These are people who are not causing a community disruption. These are people who obviously need a soft place to be,” Longstreet said.

Once the sobering centre is in place, the CWC is hoping to see additional beds brought to Brandon for detox and social living situations.

Longstreet said doing so would help create a full circle of services that support sobriety, rapid access to addiction medicines, treatment, sober living and integration in the community.

“We basically almost have everything we need here, we just need it to work together better,” Longstreet said. “That’s where the Collaborative will be able to do that in the community and have [those] open, honest, transparent conversations about how we can provide service in a meaningful way that is … going to enhance and add to what we are doing.”

» ckemp@brandonsun.com

» Twitter: @The_ChelseaKemp

Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Brandon Sun

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