View From City Hall: Treatment pillar needs to be a priority

What we need are more treatment programs. We need detox and sobering centres and housing that enforces a no drug use policy.

I would like to shed some light on property crime, addiction and mental-health issues in Kamloops and, in particular, the pressure it is putting on the RCMP.

These issues are not only negatively affecting our business community, with goods pilfered, but are reaching into our neighbourhoods, with parcels stolen from front porches and bikes taken from backyards.

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In many cases, the stolen items are taken by people whose goal is to trade them to feed their drug addictions.

Fuelling the frustration of property crime victims is a feeling that there is a lack of response from the police, other than issuing a file number. Mounties’ hands are tied and they are stretched to the limit on higher priority calls. It is so bad the new motto is “catch and release.”

One of the reasons for that phrase is that our provincial courts, including Crown prosecutors and judges, have relaxed enforcement that used to include remanding to jail for trial, which was usually held in a timely manner, or setting curfews and imposing other restrictions.

It seems the courts now believe if a property crime is committed by a person with an addiction, the courts can deem it to be a health issue.

The other challenge lies with Interior Health, which has said when a property crime is committed by a person with addiction or mental-health issues, it is still a crime and the judicial system needs to deal with it.

You can see how this adds to the frustration experienced by RCMP officers on a daily basis when the two agencies can’t work together.

That frustration has been amplified during the pandemic.

Sometimes offenders are out the door before officers have finished writing their reports. The hope is that the city’s newly created community safety officer department will free up RCMP resources.

What we need are more treatment programs. We need detox and sobering centres and housing that enforces a no drug use policy.

What is concerning is that Interior Health is slow on supporting Kamloops, whereas other communities in our province have been funded for such programs, including more hours for the Car 40 Program, which pairs a Mountie with a nurse for mental-health calls.

Interior Health’s four-pillar harm-reduction strategy consists of prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.

It has been proven that more resources put into the treatment pillar takes enormous weight off the other three pillars.

I agree with Dr. Sheldon Howard, who recently retired after practising in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside for 50 challenging years.

He has stated injection sites, free drugs and other suggested solutions are, at best, Band-Aid dressings and, at worst, feed already disastrous and destructive habits.

Howard suggested people with addictions need rehabilitation, which will provide basic skills training and assistance with job placement — providing them with stability and, most importantly, a sense of self-worth and self-respect.

Moving forward, with the support of our mayor and council, I am hoping we will get behind a newly proposed initiative for our city — a Kamloops Community Justice Court, led by a local lawyer, a forensic psychiatrist and a Thompson Rivers University law professor. They will be applying to the provincial judicial review committee to operate this court.

The plan is to have representation from each of the four pillars.

This court is a step in the right direction to address the timely enforcement of crimes and to provide treatment options needed.

I hope this will help make a difference for our businesses community and neighbourhoods.

Bill Sarai is a Kamloops councillor. Kamloops council columns appear monthly in the print edition of KTW and online at kamoopsthisweek.com. Sarai’s email address is bsarai@kamloops.ca. To comment on this column, email editor@kamloopsthisweek.com.

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