Pubdate: Wed, 08 Feb 2006
Source: Esquimalt News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Esquimalt News
Author: Brennan Clarke
Bookmark: (Youth)
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Methamphetamine - Canada)


Society Says Addicted Youth Need Facilities

If there's anyone who understands the scarcity of of detox beds on 
Vancouver Island, it's Victoria resident Martin Cockerill.

A B.C. Ferries employee, the 33-year-old former crystal meth addict 
had to travel all the way to Kelowna last year to find a readily 
available detox bed.

And without funding from his employer for the 28-day residential 
program, he would have spent weeks or even months on a waiting list.

"I got the treatment I needed but I had to drive myself to Kelowna to 
get it. I took my last puff on the nine o'clock ferry from Swartz 
Bay," recalled Cockerill, a self-described poster boy for meth 
addiction who now works with the Crystal meth Victoria Society.

"I smashed my pipe under my foot and drove like hell to Kelowna. I 
had to stop for a couple of Red Bulls on the way, but I made it."

The detox facility in Kelowna has 28 beds, of which six are privately 
operated and 22 are part of the public health care system. Cockerill, 
who has now been drug-free for eight months, was lucky to have an 
employer willing to foot the $3,360 bill for the program.

But that's a luxury few can afford. Most addicts, whether the drug of 
choice is crystal meth, heroin cocaine or alcohol, face long waits 
for beds that are in short supply.

The dearth of treatment beds on the Island, especially for the 
growing number of youth falling victims to the lure of crystal 
methamphetamine, is becoming a priority for the Crystal Meth Victoria Society.

"We are currently under-served on Vancouver Island in terms of youth 
detox beds, president Mark Mclaughlin said during a press conference 
Wednesday morning.

"If there's a child who needs extended treatment for 20, 40 or 80 
days, they're going to be shipped to the mainland."

There are currently five youth detox beds on the South Island and two 
more set to come on stream in the Parksville area, he said.

Crystal Meth Victoria is working with the Vancouver Island Health 
Authority on a plan to funding additional treatment beds.

Along with talk of beefed-up treatment programs, Wednesday press 
conference provided an update on the society's multi-faceted efforts 
to stop the crystal meth epidemic before it become a permanent 
fixture of the local drug scene.

The society's biggest achievement has been producing an educational 
video that has received rave reviews from students at local schools. 
"The goal of the education presentation is to make meth a bad word," 
he said. "We want to roll out the program across all the schools on 
the South Island. We believe forewarned is forearmed."

The number of students who attend and ask questions about the drug 
indicate that crystal meth has made inroads into the schools.

"The level of engagement is astonishing," McLaughlin said, noting 
that many student admit knowing someone who has tried the drug.

"Either they all know the same guy or there's lots of this stuff in 
our schools and we need to go after it."

Crystal Meth Victoria, which works closely with School District No. 
61, has a range of other initiatives that are either in progress or 
soon to be up-and-running.

Those include a hotline that can provide information about the drug 
and the upcoming start of a Meth Watch program, a local version of a 
North America-wide initiative aimed at restricting access to 
"precursor" ingredients at pharmacies and hardware stores.

Society volunteers are also gathering information on the number of 
court cases related to meth addiction and the number of youth that 
have tried the drug.

While those result are not yet available, McLaughlin said there's no 
reason to believe the numbers will differ greatly from a study in 
Surrey in which 10 per cent of high school kids admitted trying the 
drug once and between four and six per cent used it more than once a 
week. Each "pillar" of the society's approach represents a piece of 
the puzzle, McLaughlin said.

That comment prompted an impassioned speech from Rev. Al Tysick, 
director of Our Place street ministry on Johnson Street.

"We need a complete social plan that doesn't only talk about extra 
beds in detox," Tysick said.

"We talk about the sobering centre, we talk about a safe injection 
site, but we're not talking about as a community together a complete 
social plan.

"I can't believe we're sitting here talking about pieces of the puzzle."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom