Pubdate: Wed, 07 Jul 2010
Source: Omineca Express (CN BC)
Copyright: 2010 Black Press
Author: Crystal Carpenter


After successful use of group medical appointments at Omineca Medical 
Clinic during the H1N1 pandemic, clinic staff has launched another project.

"Our physicians wanted to address some of the problems that happen in 
any community," explained clinic manager Karen Bancroft.

"We've got good kids," Bancroft says of the community, adding that 
there are always those at risk of things like alcohol and drug use, 
among other risky behaviours.

"We want them to know that they can come talk to a doctor at any time 
and we will all help them without judgment," she said.

Thus began the drug awareness for youth program, which involves 
community partners coming together to educate high school students 
about the consequences of bad decision-making, and the community 
resources that are available to help them.

NVSS has been involved with the Prevent Alcohol and Risk Related 
Trauma in Youth (PARTY) program, where groups of students take a bus 
to University hospital in Prince George and go to the morgue and the 
intensive care unit. However the program is not easily accessible and 
those at risk often choose not to attend. After seeing the need for a 
similar program in Vanderhoof, the drug awareness for youth program 
was launched.

NVSS principal Lynn Macsymchak said there was concern at the school 
when they noticed Grade 8 and 9 students engaging in high-risk behaviours.

Considering the gap between the DARE program, offered to Grade 6 
students, and the PARTY program for Grade 10s, there was an apparent 
need for a similar program for those in between.

"There are groups of students who we think need this type of 
information," Macsymchak said, adding that students have seemed blown 
away by the information they have learned.

"They could just blurt out what they were thinking, because it was a 
safe environment," Macsymchak said of the group meetings.

Parents gave the students permission to attend the group as part of 
their health and drug prevention education.

"Parents have been very supportive and we're very pleased," says Macsymchak.

"We bring a personal side to it," says Cpl. Darren Underhill of the 
group education approach. His work with the program has involved 
sharing real stories and consequences with the students. He says this 
helps to build relationships and helps students see the RCMP as humans.

Dr. Douwette Coetzee agrees.

"The team approach shows we are humans and we are approachable. We 
want to get some positive outcomes to the consequences of bad choices."

Underhill says he wants the students to know he is available to help 
them and its not just about taking people to jail.

Lisa Striegler from Vanderhoof Alcohol and Drug works one day a week 
at NVSS. She also attends each of the drug awareness for youth appointments.

"Anything that comes out of the groups that needs to be talked about, 
I'm there to help with that," says Striegler.

She believes that past experiences can play a role in how youth perceive risk.

"Maybe nothing really bad has happened yet, so they think they're not 
at risk," explains Striegler.

Dr Coetzee says it is important for people to understand what is at stake.

"I would want everyone to realize that in a few minutes or hours you 
could do something that can have an impact on the rest of your life," 
Coetzee says.

For Cpl. Underhill, keeping tabs of the community has also involved 
driving around at night and just talking to youth. During graduation 
weekend, he was out doing this and didn't run into any questionable behaviours.

"Maybe all the efforts made were hitting home," says Underhill.

"It truly is a partnership. That's how you make things happen in a 
community," says Macsymchak.

During the group meetings, students can write down questions on 
pieces of paper, place them in a box, and then a doctor can answer 
the question. They have found that same-sex groups have worked well, 
perhaps because boys and girls are less concerned about appearing 
cool to the opposite sex. They try to provide a female doctor and 
police officer for the female groups and a male doctor and police 
officer for the male groups. It is hoped that students will go home 
and talk about what they have learned with their parents.

The reality-based education also includes posters showing the real 
consequences of bad decisions. Photographs of real situations have 
been blown up and hung on the walls of the group medical room. One 
depicts a teenage girl who was beaten, another of a car crash.

The stories told are those that can resonate with youth.

Omineca Medical Clinic was able to do three of these group meetings 
before the school year ended and are planning to resume doing so in September.

Macsymshak says she is hoping to see all of the Grade 8 students 
attend the program as part of their health class component at NVSS.

"The biggest protective factor any parent can do is to have open 
communication with their kids," says Striegler.

"As a community, we can try and provide them a voice and a place 
where they can be heard."
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MAP posted-by: Keith Brilhart