British Columbia

Drug treatment program near Kamloops being used as 'get-out-of-jail free' card, officials warn

RCMP in Kamloops, B.C., say the province is failing to make sure people ordered into addictions treatment by the justice system are actually taking part in the programs — and not simply walking away to reoffend.

RCMP superintendent says officers are regularly arresting men who have ditched the program

The Lake, run by the non-profit VisionQuest Recovery Society, is a residential treatment facility located around 50 kilometres from Kamloops, B.C. (VisionQuest Recovery Society)

RCMP in Kamloops, B.C., say the province is failing to make sure people ordered into addictions treatment by the justice system are actually taking part in the programs — and not simply walking away to reoffend.

Supt. Syd Lecky says his officers are regularly arresting men who have ditched a court-ordered addictions recovery program about 50 kilometres outside of town, and the extra work has become a burden on police resources.

The Lake is a residential treatment facility built on 20 acres of land just outside the community of Logan Lake that is run by the non-profit VisionQuest Recovery Society.

According to the society, as many as 80 per cent of its clients have been ordered to take part in the program as an alternative to incarceration. They are dropped off at the facility by B.C. Corrections with the expectation that they stay for about six months.

But once the men are there, VisionQuest has no ability to make sure the men stay on site, said the society's executive director Megan Worley.

'We can't physically restrain them'

"We're not a jail. If they choose to leave, we can't stop them," she said. "We will spend quite a bit of time working with them and trying to get them to change their minds, but we can't physically restrain them."

Lecky says many of these men are leaving the program early and coming to Kamloops — violating the conditions of their release and prompting police to get involved.

Kamloops RCMP Supt. Syd Lecky, pictured here in July 2018, says his officers are regularly arresting men who have simply walked away from a court-ordered addictions recovery program outside the city. (Doug Herbert/CBC News)

"If [the Lake] wasn't located next to Kamloops, I'd be happier," Lecky said, citing the recent arrest of a former VisionQuest client who had outstanding aggravated assault charges in another community.

Lecky said many of the people who wind up in Kamloops from the program are from other communities, taxing their already stretched officers.

"I don't like taking other people's issues into my community if I didn't earn it," he said.

Worley estimated about 70 people have been discharged from the program since January 2022, some of whom completed the program, some who did not and others who were transferred elsewhere, including back to jail. Five simply walked away.

She said it seemed the small minority who walked away without completing the program viewed the treatment centre as a "get-out-of-jail-free card," and said she shared the RCMP's frustrations.

"They're with us on orders. They should be going back to jail if they breach those orders," she said.

Programs not serving community: mayor

In a statement emailed to CBC, Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth confirmed some clients undergoing court-ordered treatment are not forced to complete recovery. 

But he says clients failing to obey the terms of their release "may be breached for violating their condition."

Kamloops Mayor Ken Christian said he would like to see the rules changed so that court-ordered treatment is mandatory and there is on-site enforcement to prevent people sent there by a judge from leaving.

"It's not good for them or the community to just allow these come-and-go sort of programs," he said, a sentiment both Lecky and Worley agreed with.

An aerial view of The Lake facility, which is built on 20 acres of land just outside Logan Lake, B.C. (VisionQuest Recovery Society)

Worley said there is also a need for more mental health support to help people make better decisions for their future.

"We are not trying to cause problems in any communities," she said. 

The head of the Kamloops RCMP has a problem with a privately operated addiction treatment centre near Logan Lake. He says his officers spend too much time dealing with clients who simply walk away

Corrections

  • An earlier version of this story said about 70 people walked away from the program without completing it. In fact, five people walked away from the program. In total, seventy people were discharged, some of whom completed the program, some who did not and others who were transferred elsewhere, including back to jail.
    Apr 13, 2022 3:24 PM PT

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marcella Bernardo

CBC Kamloops

Marcella Bernardo is a reporter/editor for CBC News based in Kamloops.

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