Pubdate: Fri, 28 Nov 2003
Source: Whitehorse Star (CN YK)
Copyright: 2003 Whitehorse Star
Author: Sarah Elizabeth Brown


Cocaine, ecstasy, pot, heroin, mushrooms - they're all to be found on
Whitehorse streets.

But just how accessible drugs are, their prevalence and their overall
effect on Yukoners isn't known.

By next June, a local researcher will have reviewed existing data and
spoken with coroners, cops, doctors and people who treat addicts in
order to find out just how bad Whitehorse's drug scene is.

Whitehorse is one of six Canadian communities doing the drug studies
starting in December. A further nine towns and cities will conduct the
studies in the two following years.

Each separate group - police, the coroner's office, alcohol and drug
treatment services, needle exchanges - has a piece of the picture, but
the puzzle box top is missing.

"That's what we want, and we want to be able to compare that overall
picture with what's happening in the rest of Canada so that we can
track a trend," said Cpl. Pete Greenlaw, the Yukon RCMP's drug
awareness officer.

"I think alcohol's the biggest problem, certainly from an RCMP point
of view," said Greenlaw. "But we're going to find out how the other
drugs play into this whole soup."

He's said in the past that marijuana and cocaine are common, while
ecstasy has become more widely-used, particularly by teenagers. Other
drugs, such as heroin, have long been around, but are not as common.

Much of Greenlaw's duties take him to national meetings about drugs
and booze where he's listened to people from across Canada talk about
the drug problems in their towns.

"I can say with a lot of confidence that our (drug situation) is
better than some and it's worse than others. It's a lot better than
some... We're not at either end of the spectrum by any means.

"But anywhere you go, people are going to say their problem is the

The study coordinator, already hired, will start Dec. 1 with a report
due-date of June 2004. By October 2004, the strategic plan on how to
deal with Whitehorse's drug problems must be completed.

From there, it's up to the powers that be to take the information

The data collected will go to Health Canada and the Canadian Centre on
Substance Abuse, as well as local governments and agencies that deal
with substance abuse in Whitehorse.

"If they want to pick up the ball and go with it, great, and if they
don't, we don't have any sort of a hammer over them," said Greenlaw.

However, said the studies' national coordinator, the idea is to foster
collaboration between agencies so the recommendations aren't left to
gather dust. "We just feel there is strength in numbers," said Mona
Wynn, who works out of Ottawa.

"It's basically encouraging communities to do evidence-based planning
instead of reacting to an incident that happens in the community,
where someone dies," Wynn said.

Along with the Yukon's capital, Windsor and Brockville, Ont., will
both do similar studies this year, along with the Moose Cree First
Nation, an island in James Bay, all of Prince Edward Island and the
Mt. Currie First Nation in Pemberton, B.C.

The next year is focused on the larger centres of Ottawa, Montreal,
Halifax, Calgary and St. John's, Nfld. In the third and final year of
the project, four smaller communities will complete the study.

"This type of project is to get a snapshot of what is happening in
Canada," said Greenlaw. "Over time, we'll be able to look back and
hopefully discover a trend, and as a result of that, be better able to
place our resources."

Armed with some real information about the Whitehorse drug situation,
organizations that deal with addictions can make informed decisions
about what to do about it.

"We can actually do some planning based on real-life statistics
instead of 'He says, she says, I think,'" Greenlaw said.

The National Crime Prevention Centre is funding the $20,000-study, to
be conducted by the SASSY committee - the Substance Abuse Strategy and
Solutions for Yukon.

SASSY is a local group made up of RCMP, health, education, justice,
first nations and addictions treatment personnel tasked with finding
ways to keep Yukon youngsters drug-free.

The community action project is sponsored by two existing networks,
the Canadian Community Epidemiology Network on Drug Use and Health,
Education and Enforcement in Partnership.
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MAP posted-by: Larry Seguin