Pubdate: Thu, 12 Nov 2009
Source: Fort McMurray Today (CN AB)
Copyright: 2009 Osprey Media
Author: Roland Cilliers, Staff Writer


Drugs are a problem in Fort McMurray that people need to know about,
according to the Wood Buffalo HIV and AIDS Society.

Representatives from a variety of the local drug agencies manned a
drug awareness booth in the middle of the Peter Pond Shopping Centre
yesterday in anticipation of next week's national addictions week.

They handed out information on the different services available
locally for dealing with addiction, provided a quiz on drug knowledge
and allowed people to make pictures on what drug use means to them.

Shauna MacEachern, drug strategy project co-ordinator at the Wood
Buffalo HIV and AIDS Society, said the issue with the local drug
problem is not that there are more drugs in town than in other parts
of the province.

"We have more concern about the types of drugs being used, and also
the fact that a lot of the people that really need these services
don't have access to them because they're in remote communities and
they don't have access to social programming or health services. So
that's sort of the problem in Fort McMurray," MacEachern said.

She said that while the amount of drugs in town seems to be consistent
with what is seen in other parts of Canada, in Wood Buffalo there are
people who are isolated from services that could help them deal with
their addiction. She also said in Fort McMurray, they tend to see more
of harder drugs like cocaine and prescription drugs.

The major goal of the booth was to raise awareness of organizations
like the Fort McMurray Health Promotions Centre and the Pastew Place
Detox Centre and the ways they can assist people with addictions.

"There seems to be a lot of denial about the drug situation and a
willingness to approach this situation. I think that we've tried to
raise awareness about this issue by hosting this booth but also by
getting the information out about our agencies," MacEachern said.

At one table at the booth, people drew pictures that reflected their
thoughts on drug use. One picture featured a skull and cross bones
while others had written messages about the topic. The best of the
pictures will be placed at various drug agencies around town.

While MacEachern said she was happy with the response the booth
received, she said they hadn't had as many people sign up for the Wood
Buffalo Drug Strategy Coalition as they would have liked. The
coalition, a group made from local organizations, has the goal of
creating an effective local drug strategy.

Including people from the police, industry and social services the
group aims to reduce the affects of drug and alcohol abuse in town. It
looks for input from all stakeholders in the issue including from just
concerned citizens.

"It's a really good chance for them to be able to sit in on who would
be considered the experts on this," MacEachern said. "People from the
municipality, people from not-for-profits, like myself, members from
industry - all people considered experts on drug use. They can still
sign up if they like."

For more information contact the Fort McMurray Health Promotions
Centre at 780-743-9200 or visit the needle exchange program above
Campbell's Music on Franklin Avenue. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr