CMHA Cowichan Valley Branch - Sobering and Assessment Centre

*Announcement: Island Health is funding six additional emergency beds at SAC. This increases the operating total to twelve. To incorporate this expanded program, additional staff were hired. CMHA-CVB opened these expanded supports on Wednesday, May 1, 2024.* 

The Sobering and Assessment Centre, commonly known as SAC, provides *twelve* emergency beds for those who are too intoxicated to find services elsewhere, have nowhere else to go, and just need a safe place to sleep. It will now also have two staff working per shift. 

SAC is situated at 2579 Lewis Street Duncan BC, in the east wing of Warmland House—an emergency homeless shelter. SAC opened its doors on Dec 20, 2016, and has operated twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, since opening. SAC is funded by Island Health and managed in partnership with the Canadian Mental Health-Cowichan Valley Branch (CMHA-CVB).  

Although the RCMP frequently brings clients to SAC (those who do not need to be in cells), and Cowichan District Hospital also sends clients down to the SAC (freeing up hospital beds) most clients now bring themselves to the SAC.

SAC is a non-judgmental, culturally sensitive, gender-neutral, and non-coercive sleeping program. Clients can leave at any time. SAC uses a compassionate but structured approach. Both out at the gate and in the office, staff do an assessment of the client’s needs and their suitability for the program. Clients who present with urgent medical needs are sent up to the hospital either by taxi or ambulance. All staff at SAC have level two first aid. 

Clients are expected to do a complete set of vitals and change into scrubs. Clients are expected to be able to walk talk and follow directions. Clients are not permitted to bring any possessions into the dorms. Clients are given a blanket and assigned a bed and a locker. The client’s belongings are locked up and the clients are shown their bed. The client’s respiration and condition are monitored hourly or more frequently as needed. Clients on alcohol may sleep for up to 24 hours; those on other substances may stay up to 30 hours. If at any time the client becomes a danger to themselves or others the RCMP will be called.  If at any time the client’s medical condition changes they will be sent to the hospital. 

As of May 1, 2024, SAC has three dorms. One holds six beds, another dorm supports four individuals and the third sleeps two. Generally, the larger dorm is used for male clients, and the four-bedroom dorm will support female clients, the smallest dorm will be available on a first-come-first-served policy. SAC can accommodate youth between the ages of 17-18. Youth are not housed with adults. All beds are assigned on a first-come-first-served basis. If youth clients present after adults are already in the dorms, then the youth must be turned away and the RCMP contacted. If a non-gender or trans-gender client presents they may be assigned a bed in the dorm with which they most identify. 

Clients may have a nutritious drink and snack upon departure. Clients can shower and have their clothes laundered.  Sac provides, through donations, soap and shampoo, toothbrushes, toothpaste, razors, hand lotion, feminine hygiene products, socks, and some extra clothing on a limited basis.

Although SAC is only a sleeping program, staff attempt to connect clients with services in the community.