The new location for the Martin Street Outreach Centre at 437 Martin St.

The new location for the Martin Street Outreach Centre at 437 Martin St.

Concerns from Outreach Centre neighbours addressed at council

Some neighbours are worried about the clientele Penticton outreach centre will attract to the area.

A community outreach centre will be opening on Martin Street to offer support to those with substance abuse and mental health issues, and some neighbours are worried about the clientele that it will attract to the area.

During an update on the health care initiation at the regular council meeting on May 4, Councillors Max Picton and Helena Konanz inquired about concerns communicated to them by people living near of the Martin Street Outreach Centre.

Coun. Konanz asked if there would be security personnel on site.

“There will be only passive security,” said Susan Brown, community health service administrator for Interior Health, adding that resources aren’t sufficient to hire security positions. She said that cameras will be monitoring the building from the inside and out.

“So if there were issues that arose we would be able to contact the RCMP.”

Coun. Picton asked how Interior Health could help to give solace to neighbours feeling uneasy.

“While we can never promise zero risk, we are certainly doing what we can to make sure that we manage our risks well,” she said. “We really believe that by having the service there, people are going to be able to get the services they need and the care they require.”

Joseph Savage, manager for the South Okanagan Community Mental Health and Substance Use Service for Interior Health, said that he’s canvassed the area as best he could to engage neighbours to ensure them that the facility won’t have a negative impact.

“We certainly want to alleviate those concerns,” he said. “We have centres like this in Kelowna, Vernon, and Kamloops, and I’m pleased to say that our experience with those centres has been positive in the sense that there hasn’t been a negative impact on the local area”

He said that the safety of staff is a large area of concern for Interior Health, which is why the building is monitored by camera with ample visibility throughout.

“We’ve designed the space with safety in mind. We want the space to be a very welcoming environment and I’m glad to say that we’ve accomplished that.”

The services that will be offered from the outreach centre are currently available at the Penticton Health Centre – up the road from hospital, but that presents a barrier for the many clients.

“(Martin Street) is a good location because a lot of the clients we are looking to connect with do live in the downtown location and a lot of the other service providers that they access are also there,” he said. “By locating ourselves close to where they are, we become easier and more convenient for them to access by addressing the transportation challenges.”

Interior Health’s primary objective with the outreach centre is to reduce harm, he said, which is easier to accomplish from a central location.

“A lot of the clients right now aren’t connected with the services that we want to offer them,” Savage said. “But (the location of the hospital) presents a barrier to folks who are living downtown and may struggle to make it up there.”

The outreach centre will begin moving in on May 11 and offering services by May 15. In the beginning, hours of operation will go from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. from Monday to Friday.

“As time goes on we will be glad to review those hours to make sure that they suit the needs of the clients we’re trying to serve.”

In the summertime, after staff gets the hang of operations, the outreach centre will be inviting the community for a visit to their open house. Until then, anybody with questions of concerns regarding the outreach centre can contact Interior Health at 250-770-3555.