Pubdate: Thu, 15 Jun 2006
Source: Esquimalt News (CN BC)
Copyright: 2006 Esquimalt News
Author: Andrea Lavigne, Victoria News
Bookmark: (Treatment)


All the key players - substance users, researchers,  policy makers, 
law enforcement and local business  people - attended a recent 
substance-abuse forum -  well, almost everyone.

"The health authority," said Victoria Mayor Alan Lowe,  when asked 
who should be sitting at the table next  time, adding that the focus 
should be on drug addiction  as a health issue, not an enforcement issue.

"It's time to come to terms with the fact that we're a 
substance-using culture," said Connie Carter, a member  of Voices of 
Substance, citing the prevalence and  acceptability of alcohol, 
cigarettes and coffee in our  society. "Unfortunately, the burden of 
marginalization  falls on people using illicit substances."

About 170 people examined health, public safety and  social justice 
cost of the current approach to  substance use.

Several members of the forum stressed a need for more  treatment facilities.

"The most immediate need is a place for people to go to  when they 
want to get clean," said Barb Smith,  community facilitator.

Lowe agreed, adding that a perfect world would have  treatment on demand.

"We can't tell people it's a two-week wait because you  can't find 
them in two weeks."

Former drug user Andy Snitzer spoke of the benefits of  having a 
treatment facility here. Now on parole and in  a methadone program, 
he reinforced the message that  enforcement doesn't curb substance abuse.

"I did crime to support a habit, but I had no control  over my addiction."

He spent the last 30 years in and out of prison,  holding up banks 
with phony weapons and B&Es to support  his habit, he said.

Snitzer added that when he went to jail, he learned  more about crime.

Victoria police Chief Paul Battershill said Victoria  would be a good 
place to implement a specialized drug  court. The number of substance 
users in Victoria is  estimated at 1,500 to 2,000.

The judge and staff of a community court have  comprehensive 
information about offenders and devise a  range of punitive and 
rehabilitative measures.
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