Brandon Sun Kim Longstreet stands with the purple bow that she put up outside her house for International Overdose Awareness Day. Her son overdosed in 2012. (Melissa Verge/Brandon Sun)

By Chelsea Kemp, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Published Oct 31, 2021

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.”

This item is reprinted with permission from Brandon Sun. See article HERE.

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