Pubdate: Sat, 04 Mar 2006
Source: Edmonton Journal (CN AB)
Copyright: 2006 The Edmonton Journal
Author: Gordon Kent
Bookmark: (Treatment)
Bookmark: (Harm Reduction)


Group Took 18 Months To Get Organized

EDMONTON -- It's taken about 18 months to get organized, but a city 
drug-abuse group says it's now ready to act.

"We're at the point of just being able to start doing stuff," Gary 
Nelson, co-chairman of the Community Drug Strategy Task Force, said Friday.

Nelson said the task force is looking at several interesting new 
programs to deal with drug abuse.

The idea for the group originated with former Mayor Bill Smith's call 
for dealers and users to "get out of Edmonton," following a string of 
drug-related murders.

The 20-member group, which includes police, health, aboriginal and 
business representatives, was created to deal with drug and alcohol 
issues of young people after a 2004 workshop.

It has spent much of its time establishing an organization, gathering 
information and setting priorities, said Nelson, appointed last month 
to co-chair the task force along with Mayor Stephen Mandel.

"I think we're trying to get done as many things as we can do well," 
Nelson said. One idea is a "tolerant shelter," aimed at helping 
addicts aged 18-24, even when they're stoned or drunk, who also have 
mental-health problems such as fetal alcohol spectrum disorder.

While there are already facilities that take clients who are under 
the influence, the centres often draw older adults. Task force member 
Deborah Jakubec said some young people don't feel comfortable there.

Jakubec heads a sub-committee

examining whether there's a need for a new space which might include 
a detox program and long-term housing, as well as room for people who 
are sober.

If her advocacy group decides the shelter is needed, they'll bring 
the idea to the overall task force, which could then push for an 
agency to carry it out.

Other members are exploring the creation of a "tool kit" to help 
people steer their kids away from problems such as violence and drug 
abuse, Nelson said.

It could offer parents advice on how to communicate with their 
children and learn about activities they're doing that may indicate 
trouble, such as spending time on drug-related websites.

"It's not just about drugs, but decision-making," said Nelson, a 
social studies teacher at T.D. Baker junior high school. "That could 
be sexual relationships that aren't appropriate, it could be drinking 
and driving, it could be hanging out with a crowd you shouldn't, it 
could be violence."

Information may be made available through local schools.

Nelson, 35, has volunteered with various social projects over the 
past decade, including out-of-school care and the Safer Cities initiative.

He returned to the task force last fall after an earlier stint 
working on the drug strategy in 2004.

The group focuses on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and law 
enforcement. Coun. Janice Melnychuk, who's a member, hopes it can put 
more attention on prevention.

Melnychuk wants to find out what programs work best and then push to 
have them used. She said prevention programs can be so difficult to 
evaluate that people don't want to spend money on them.

Melnychuk thinks the organization is doing a worthwhile job.

"If something like a task force creates a repository of information 
and a co-ordination of efforts, and a way of dealing with big 
community issues ... then it (serves) a useful purpose."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom