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Latest efforts for a drug treatment centre in Kamloops quashed by council

Kamloops councillor Denis Walsh made one last effort to sway council on a drug rehabilitation centre in Kamloops, but his motion was struck down on Tuesday.

He revised a previous motion proposing City staff explore the possibility of building a voluntary drug treatment centre in the city, but outside the urban centre.

However, despite a close vote, mayor Ken Christian and the other councillors voiced their concerns that an addictions facility is outside the role of a city government, urging him to continue lobbying the provincial government instead.

"It's our jobs as councillors to make (the province) do what is in (its) mandate," Christian said at the Aug. 30 meeting.

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Walsh's motion, which was largely inspired by mayoral-hopeful Reid Hamer-Jackson, asked City staff to partner with social service agencies, the public and First Nations in studying the feasibility of a voluntary treatment centre.

Hamer-Jackson previously proposed a similar idea in Rayleigh, but Walsh's motion didn't name a particular property.

Walsh's previous proposal was defeated in December, when it was criticized as "dehumanizing" by one councillor and as a "utopian" solution by Christian.

Coun. Sadie Hunter said adding a treatment centre study to the City's plate would "dilute" the city's message as it lobbies the province and Interior Health.

She was one of a few who said the City already started numerous other efforts to address overdose deaths.

The City took on dozens of efforts in recent years trying to address social issues in Kamloops, like drug use and homelessness.

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One of the biggest changes was an overhaul of the bylaw department into Community Service Officers. The change, while still not fully rolled out, includes training for those bylaw officers to deal with street issues and to be on 24/7 patrol.

The City has also lobbied Interior Health for a sobering centre for years and, more recently, a new complex care facility.

As of June 30, 47 people died of overdoses in Kamloops this year, coming after a record-breaking 78 deaths in 2021.

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Ahead of the vote, several members of the public came forward to voice their support for the motion and the prospect of delivering users voluntary drug treatment outside the city centre.

"There's a real common undertone of frustration, powerlessness, and I think, ultimately, of grief," Coun. Sinclair said of the speakers.

Sinclair added that City staff can do the research, but it would be a waste of time if the province won't build it, can't staff it, or find enough people willing to actually take part in its programs.

"I think it's this council's job to give direction to the province, B.C. Housing, Interior Health — we have to speak up louder," Walsh said. "One way or another, if we don't advocate, we're going to be paying."

The motion ended in a 5-4 vote, with Walsh, Bill Sarai, Mike O'Reilly and Arjun Singh voting in favour.

— This story was updated at 9:50 a.m., Sept. 1, 2022, to correctly state who voted in favour of the motion.

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