The city is taking a leadership role along with the Northern Health Authority to look at establishing a detox facility somewhere in Terrace.
One potential location could involve a proposed homeless shelter on Lazelle Ave. should a contentious rezoning application be accepted by city council.
Establishing a detox facility was one of 16 recommendations from a coroner’s inquest into the 2013 death of First Nations woman Alyssa George at the hospital after being found in medical distress in Terrace RCMP cells.
Mayor Carol Leclerc said her death and the inquest recommendations released late last year shine a light on the substance addiction issues that have been a problem here for many years.
“The detox centre keeps being pushed away as a priority because it’s a huge cost,” said Leclerc, recalling discussions dating back to her time as a city councillor prior to being elected as mayor. “Northern Health thought they had services they could provide that weren’t a full detox… With the unfortunate death of Alyssa George, it indicates that it really needs to be stepped up a bit.”
The committee examining the detox recommendation is made up of senior city and Northern Health Authority officials and others, including the First Nations Health Authority. Also part of that discussion is the Ksan Housing Society, which wants the empty building and property at 4614 Lazelle Ave. – between the Canada Post building and Terrace Interiors – to be rezoned for institutional use.
Executive director Amanda Bains says any detox service Ksan might be involved with would have to be established in collaboration with the Northern Health Authority as it is a medical service. A detox centre is not within the scope of social services provided by the society.
If the necessary rezoning and renovations do happen, then a discussion around the feasibility of having detox beds at the Lazelle Ave. location could move forward, but Bains said that would have to be initiated by Northern Health.
“Ksan would not initiate a detox centre,” said Bains. “If Northern Health came to us and said, ‘hey we need a place to put a few detox beds,’ we would accommodate them. But it would have to be initiated by Northern Health and staffed by them.”
The need for staffing of the detox facility is one of the key parts of the Alyssa George recommendations, which indicated one or more substance abuse doctors and counsellors would be needed at any such facility.
For its part, the Northern Health Authority says it is looking to improve its addiction programs here.
“There’s a recommendation from the coroner’s inquest and we take those recommendations really seriously,” said Northern Health official Jonathon Dyck, adding that any new addictions program or facility would be on top of programs they already have.
“Is there room for continuous improvement? Definitely,” he said. “I think that any idea brought forward would be entertained,” he continued when asked about Northern Health running a detox component at a shelter of the Ksan House Society.
“It’s just a matter of the feasibility and it would have to be done in collaboration with community partners, be community based, and evidence informed,” said Dyck.