The Manitoba government is providing $2 million to establish and operate a sobering centre in the city of Brandon.
Justice Minister Cameron Friesen said in a news release "Sobering centres offer an effective alternative to police and hospital-based responses to public intoxication, while keeping Manitobans safe. The Brandon Sobering Centre will provide a safe setting for individuals needing short-term recovery, and support our government's commitment to improving the health and wellness of all Manitobans."
The Brandon Sobering Centre will provide a 24-7 safe and secure environment for non-violent, publicly intoxicated individuals to stay while the effects of drugs and/or alcohol wear off.
Public intoxication continues to be a significant health and safety issue in Brandon and the surrounding area. Currently, the Brandon Police Service responds to over 1,000 calls for service annually where drugs and alcohol are considered a factor in the event. These incidents place a significant burden on the health-care and justice systems. This funding builds on a partnership with the City of Brandon, and other stakeholders, to develop a community safety and well-being strategy, which includes a sobering centre, the minister noted.
"The addition of a sobering centre for our area will provide a more appropriate and services-oriented approach to serving people dealing with addictions," said Brandon Mayor Rick Chrest. "This will be a benefit to those who require assistance and to our police service personnel who are on the front line rendering assistance to individuals experiencing public intoxication."
Randy Lewis, deputy chief of the Brandon Police Service, said "We at the Brandon Police Service are thrilled to see this sobering center become a reality. We have been involved in discussions with community advocates and the provincial government for some time now, and it is safe to say that we support this initiative fully. We have long recognized that our cells were not the proper place for someone with a drug or alcohol addiction to sober up and the new sobering centre will provide the proper care to these individuals. I believe that this sobering center will enhance overall community safety by freeing up officer time, which will allow them to return to their duties more quickly where they can focus their efforts on criminal activity and targeting those that make a living from trafficking drugs."
Friesen noted the new sobering centre aligns with a number of key recommendations resulting from provincial reports and strategic initiatives, including Manitoba's Policing and Public Safety Strategy, released in 2019, which calls for government to support law enforcement and community stakeholders to combat and reduce public intoxication and alleviate extraneous demands on police officers. The establishment of a sobering centre also supports the Canadian Mental Health Association action plan on the Brandon region.