It’s not a new request but B.C. municipalities are asking the provincial government for increased scrutiny on drug and alcohol recovery centres.
At this weekend’s Union of British Columbia Municipalities (UBCM) annual convention in Vancouver, delegates are likely to endorse a resolution put forth by the City of Chilliwack to licence and regulate, and provide oversight and accountability, to recovery houses, such as VisionQuest’s The Creek in the Chilliwack River Valley (CRV).
VisionQuest’s operation is 36 kilometres up the CRV, sprawling over 32 acres. The treatment facility for prolific offenders has long been the bane of Chilliwack city hall. That’s because the facility has no gate, no security, houses individuals with serious criminal convictions who often walk away.
And not only does no one at the city or the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD) know exactly who is at VisionQuest, police don’t either.
“Do I know who is at VisionQuest?” Upper Fraser Valley RCMP Supt. Deanne Burleigh told Black Press in a 2015 interview. “Only after someone walks away and I have arrested them… . No, I don’t know who is at VisionQuest.”
Beyond the obvious public safety and property crime issues of convicted offenders walking away from treatment, Chilliwack city hall’s concern is also that the facility is not within the city limits yet Chilliwack-funded policing resources are tasked to deal with issues all the time.
RCMP statistics from two years ago show police calls for services about every other day.
“There was an inordinate amount of RCMP time spent to babysit the facility,” Mayor Sharon Gaetz said this week. “Two officers go up at a time, and a return trip was close to an hour and a half.”
Gaetz added that the call volume dropped off for a while, seemingly a good thing but it’s possible the facility just stopped calling the police when clients walked away after the recent retirement of VisionQuest’s long-time director.
“We are asking for more accountability that would operate outside the purview of local government,” Gaetz said.
None of this is new as the wild west of recovery houses has proved problematic for municipalities left picking up the pieces when things go wrong.
The UBCM resolution this weekend is nothing new, either, with similar calls for regulation being put forward in 1995 and again in 2006.
Gaetz is on the UBCM executive (as is Coun. Jason Lum) and serves on the resolution committee so she said she couldn’t comment further on the resolution.
But essentially, it resolves that the UBCM “to urge the provincial government to undertake licensing and more stringent regulation of supportive recovery homes to ensure effective care, support, and safety for persons seeking assistance with recovery from drug and alcohol addictions; and to provide improved oversight and accountability to the communities in which they are situated.”
The UBCM resolutions committee has endorsed the resolution, and commented in the resolution book on how similar ones have been made in past years.
What the provincial government does with the request from B.C. municipalities on this and other issues remains to be seen.
The 2017 UBCM convention runs Sept. 25 to 29 in Vancouver.