Pubdate: Thu, 17 Aug 2006
Source: See Magazine (Edmonton, CN AB)
Copyright: 2006 SEE Magazine
Author: Mark Wells
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine - Canada)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


Colleen Klein's Cure Could Be A Political Hot Potato

The legislature will resume August 24, and Premier Klein has spending 
on his mind. What remains to be seen is if any of Alberta's surging 
oil and gas dollars will be directed to recommendations from his wife 
Colleen's task force on crystal meth.

The task force report due this fall could spark a fight in 
government. Task force member and AUPE union president Dan MacLennan 
says the recommendations could easily carry a price tag upwards of 
$10 million. He also hinted that new methamphetamine addictions 
treatment spaces would be on the list of to-do items.

"Addictions need a lot of support, and this one, from what I've heard 
from experts and families, seems to need continuous care for a longer 
period. 12 to 18 months could be normal," MacLennan says.

Year-and-a-half long programs are a far cry from the three-month 
treatments currently available. But AADAC, which is also part of the 
task force, has already assumed the stance that the meth problem is in hand.

The agency has already responded to criticisms from parents and 
addicts alike by adding youth-specific treatment beds and a treatment 
protocol specific to crystal meth users. Province-wide, AADAC now has 
28 beds available to youth enrolled in the residential treatment 
program. Edmonton has eight treatment beds and five more will be added in 2007.

Director of AADAC youth services Mark Miyamoto says wait times aren't 
a major issue. According to Miyamoto, the longest wait for a 
residential treatment bed is 12 weeks and AADAC has other programs 
available in the interim. There are no treatment beds specifically 
for meth addicts, he explains, because most youth seeking treatment 
from AADAC are not addicted to methamphetamine.

"Across the board, alcohol and cannabis are the drugs of choice for 
young people," Miyamoto says.

iHuman Youth Society outreach worker Wallis Kendall says Miyamoto is 
probably right that AADAC doesn't see a lot of meth-addicted youth. 
But, the veteran street youth worker added, that's because most 
meth-addicted youth don't go to AADAC for help.

"What AADAC is seeing is the tip of the iceberg... The kids aren't 
talking to them. AADAC isn't working on the streets," he says.

Kendall says he has tried to get meth-addicted street kids into 
AADAC, and usually can't. It's not AADAC's fault-the kids lives are 
just too erratic and their addictions too severe for AADAC's 
programs. Many live in group homes or on the street, without family support.

Part of the problem is the kid's dependencies are so severe that they 
can't stay clean enough to earn admission to long-term government 
treatment facilities. AADAC isn't the only agency with such a 
prerequisite. Kendall says a provincial facility in Ponoka recently 
turned away a young woman seeking joint pyschological-addictions 
treatment because she took drugs before being admitted.

Kendall's observational knowledge of meth treatment matches those of 
the experts consulted by the task force (iHuman was not part of the 
consultation): a three-week treatment program like AADAC's is not 
enough, and "after-care" is essential, he says.

"How do I get food and clothes, and shelter? Am I expected to go 
right into school? How do I get tutoring help? What support do I get 
when I get out of treatment?... Kids often go back to selling drugs 
to support themselves-they've done it for four or five years and 
that's all they know," he warns.

MacLennan says the diversity of the task force ensures that AADAC's 
perspective isn't the only one that will be heard. And he adds that 
there have been consultations with other agencies that work with street youth.

"I think you can expect some cutting edge recommendations," MacLennan 
promises. And not all are related to drug treatment-expect to see 
money for community initiatives and more cops recommended.

The only question remaining is if any of the recommendations will 
survive the division inherent to a government slogging through its 
final days before a leadership contest. On that point, MacLennan is optimistic.

"I can't imagine any leadership candidate saying they aren't behind 
the fight against crystal meth."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom