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Kamloops’ top cop says VisionQuest recovery centre dropping clients in city

Supt. Syd Lecky said the practice is creating challenges for his department; VisionQuest executive director Megan Worley responds in a Q&A with KTW
The VisionQuest Recovery Centre is near Logan Lake.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky says the VisionQuest Recovery Centre outside of Logan Lake is bringing clients to Kamloops and creating challenges for the local detachment.

It is not the first time this issue has been raised.

Lecky made the comments at a recent city council meeting, during which he was providing the city with year-end policing statistics. Lecky said when VisionQuest clients — who are ordered by the courts to seek drug treatment, but cannot be forced into completing it — fail to complete their program, they are brought to Kamloops.

“This is an ongoing thing and I’ve had people call me and talk to me about it, ‘You know, everybody needs a chance and they do need to get help’ and I agree. Everybody does need a chance and they do need to get help. I’m just reflecting the reality that if they fail or for whatever reason they don’t make it there, this is where they’re coming and it becomes the taxpayer of the City of Kamloops that is largely having to bear the brunt of it.”

Lecky further detailed to reporters a 300-plus-pound “violent” man with a history of manslaughter among those to come to the city from VisionQuest. Lecky said the man was arrested for breaching court orders, noting such a large person requires multiple police officers to attend.

“Generally speaking, VisionQuest has a percentage of their clients, they may have great success,” Lecky said. “But it’s the ones that aren’t successful that I’m worried about because they’ll end up on our streets and I’ve got to answer for them.”

Lecky said he would be in support of individuals going back to where they came from if they did not complete programming at VisionQuest.

“If it’s a Kamloops client that we sent there, I’m good with that, too, because it’s ours,” he said. “But I don’t like putting other people’s issues in my community if I didn’t earn it.”

Lecky said if the provincial government provided the local detachment with two police officers to deal directly with VisionQuest clients, he would be happy to dedicate resources for that specific purpose.

Lecky is not the first person to point his finger at VisionQuest.

Canadian Mental Health Association executive director Alfred Achoba previously expressed concern about VisionQuest dropping off clients outside of shelters on Victoria Street West in Kamloops. He said it did not sit well with him knowing a person from outside Kamloops is occupying space that should be set aside for a local who has been waiting to get into housing.

VisionQuest Recovery Society executive director Megan Worley told KTW at that time transportation to Kamloops occurs infrequently and as a “last resort.”

While the courts may order drug treatment for those convicted of crimes, it cannot be mandated due to human rights issues. Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian has said he disagrees with B.C. Attorney General David Eby on the issue of mandatory treatment. Kamloops, meanwhile, is awaiting an announcement from the province on complex care plans for the city.

KTW requested a phone interview with VisionQuest executive director Worley, but she declined and instead asked for questions by email. The following is the email Q&A between Worley and KTW.

KTW: How many people are you dropping off in Kamloops? Weekly? Monthly? Annually?
Worley: These numbers have been provided to other media outlets, as well. This year was unusually high, at 13 so far. Three to shelters, 10 to their POs (probation officers), hoping reincarceration is the next stop for them. Unfortunately, sometimes the justice system does not co-operate. This process is out of the control of VisionQuest, the RCMP and the POs and bail officers, who do a fantastic job. Several of those individuals are currently incarcerated and five of the men are Kamloops residents.

KTW: How often is it happening? 
Worley: It varies, but is typically significantly less than the above numbers as I have stated before.

KTW: Where are they from? How many of them are from Kamloops?
Worley: We currently have 15 Kamloops residents in our facilities. We often serve Kamloops residents in addition to other communities across the province. Many of those individuals do not return to the city, choosing instead to live elsewhere.

KTW: What challenges do you face when it comes to a lack of mandatory treatment?
Worley: Mandatory treatment is not an initiative that works. We cannot compel people into healing from this disorder any more than we can force someone with a different diagnosis into treatment; it simply doesn’t work. If we, as a society, attempt to force recovery on individuals who are not ready, they will sabotage themselves and those around them who are still vulnerable. We can influence, encourage and use our empathy and compassion, but we cannot force. Look at the Portugal model, which is often quoted by those working in the sectors of harm reduction, housing and treatment. You will see that those suffering from substance-use disorder will face increasing sanctions to eventually encourage them to seek treatment. This, combined with the other model elements, has shown some increased success. The strategy is to encourage those suffering. If someone comes out of jail to attend recovery, but chooses not to co-operate, returning that individual to jail to serve for the crime they committed until or unless they are ready to accept the help is not bad. Accountability for one’s actions will often encourage people to seek to change their life. Accountability is different from shame. We can’t and should never attempt to shame people into healing; we can only encourage it and provide the necessary resources for them when they are ready. Shame is a significant contributor to remaining in addiction. Treating people with respect as human beings will see more success.

KTW: Why can’t you take clients who don’t complete treatment to jail, rather than dropping them of in Kamloops?
Worley: Many who choose to leave before completing the program do go back to jail. Occasionally they don’t and this is out of our control. We are not the court system. We are a recovery society.

KTW: When you take people to Kamloops, where do you drop them off? 
Worley: This depends on where they are going. Whether jail, another recovery society, a shelter or a family member’s house. It all depends.

KTW: When you drop people off in Kamloops, do you notify police? 
Worley: If they are not going to their PO or bail officer, yes, every time.

KTW: When you drop people off, do you ensure they have shelter? 
Worley: We try whenever possible, but remember, these are grown adults. We do not control their choices or where they choose to go.

KTW: When you drop people off, do you ensure they receive proper services? 
Worley: We communicate with the relevant agencies whenever possible.

KTW: What specific steps do you take to ensure that happens?
Worley: These steps are internal procedures and are not discussed outside the society and other relevant agencies.

KTW: What challenges do you face?
Worley: We face the same challenges RCMP, shelters, outreach and every other recovery society face and have publicly discussed. There is often an absence of accountability for crimes committed that ties the hands of every agency involved in genuinely assisting in this current opioid crisis. In addition, there is a severe lack of access to mental-health services (many who suffer from substance-use disorder have co-occurring disorders), and a lack of funding for non-profit ALR (assisted living registry) registered support recovery societies.

KTW: Why should Kamloops residents fund through taxation policing of VisionQuest clients you are dropping off? 
Worley: I think what you mean to ask here is why Kamloops residents should fund through taxation policing of grown autonomous adults making bad choices with unhealthy minds. My answer would be that, as a taxpaying citizen myself of a city struggling with the same crisis, tax dollars should be increasingly going to solve the issues of substance-use disorder, mental-health disorders and trauma. Focusing on healing these illnesses will reduce the increased policing costs significantly. What is being lost in this discussion as we talk about clients is that the vast majority of folks in the community suffering from this disorder are not criminals and are far more likely to be victims of crime and violence. Yet there is this tendency to group and classify everyone together as criminals. This is unfortunate because all it serves to do is continue victimizing and traumatizing otherwise innocent people. This tendency is self-defeating and disheartening.