Pubdate: Fri, 08 Jul 2011
Source: Telegram, The (CN NF)
Copyright: 2011 The Telegram
Author: Ashley Fitzpatrick


Their kids need help and they're not going to wait for it anymore.

On May 28, The Telegram published a story titled "New drugs hit
schools," describing issues around illegal drug use at the junior high
and high school level. It was focused on the Northeast Avalon, but
prompted response from parents and community group leaders in other
parts of the province.

They said youth in their areas are not immune to addictions. The
difference outside the Northeast Avalon, they said, is the same level
of addictions services are not available to them.

The province has provided funding for staffing increases and service
development in this year's budget.

Even so, on the Burin Peninsula, Ruby Hoskins has spearheaded a
movement to address what she sees as a lack of readily available
addictions services for young people. The former head of the
Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of School?Councils, she has
arranged meetings over the last two months in Burin and Marystown,
with parents, town officials, representatives for MHA Clyde Jackman
and MP Judy Foote, Eastern Health and the RCMP, to talk about options
for new clinical supports and educational initiatives.

Hoskins told The Telegram she and several parents, who have come on
board following her presentations, are now advocating for at least one
bed in the Burin Peninsula health care facility be dedicated to
addictions crisis intervention and treatment, for all ages.

"We're going to be trying to set up meetings now over the summer -
certainly before the provincial election gets into high gear," she
said earlier this week.

This is not the first time the issue of addictions services has been
raised. In 2009, the regional co-ordinator for the Status of Women
Council in Central Newfoundland, Jackie Thompson, responded to public
objections being made against building a youth treatment facility in
central Newfoundland.

"We, as service providers, know full well that central has a high
percentage of drug use and violence among young people," she said.

Youth in provincial care are considered a sub-group of people who are
considered to be at greater risk of developing addictions.

In a report released by the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate in
May 2009, "Lost In Transition: A review of the transitioning of
children and youth in care," health care workers noted a need for
increased addictions services for these young people.

One question in the survey read: "What were the challenges with the in
care program at the regional level in 2006?" Among the stated
responses: "Lack of mental health, addiction and counselling services
for children in care."

Under "Additional comments" in the same survey, there were four
statements on youth in care, including: "Addiction counselling and
professional services, including mental health and addiction services,
are also required."

Aside from these statements, a more basic lack of awareness of
existing services within Newfoundland and Labrador has led to some
complaints and even calls for service to other provinces.

One mother, who asked not to be identified, said her son decided to
finally get clean of drugs and, feeling no assistance was available in
her area, she spent the night locked in a bathroom of her home with
him as he suffered through detox. She said she was on the phone with
staff at the IWK Health Centre's Choices addictions program in Halifax
during the night.

The executive director of public relations at the IWK Health Centre,
Kathryn London-Penny, confirmed the hospital has been "occasionally"
receiving calls from parents in this province to their central intake
line. There is no formal record of the calls, but a worker with the
Nova Scotia health centre recalled receiving them, most with questions
about Halifax-based programs, but others with more emergent issues.

"I wouldn't say it would be a regular occurrence. But certainly if a
parent did call under those circumstances, we would find someone that
could give them advice," London-Penny said.

The same parent who called the IWK was told by staff about the Rowan
Centre, a treatment centre operated by Eastern Health in St. John's.
Despite having brought her son to their local family doctor and
regional health centre, the IWK staff person was the first to mention
the in-province treatment facility. That parent ultimately brought the
child to the centre.

The problem is that for many people in rural areas, the cost of
pulling up stakes to seek treatment in St. John's can be prohibitive.

"Realistically, it cost me about $10,000," the parent said. "Most
people can't do that."

Health Minister Jerome Kennedy said Tuesday addictions services are
available in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.

"The question becomes whether or not we have all the services that are
necessary," he said. "In this year's budget, we tried to address a
number of areas where there were gaps in the provision of services."

The provincial health authorities employ 27 full-time addictions
counsellors outside of the Northeast Avalon.

This year, the province has looked to supplement their work,
developing a new e-mental health service - outreach through websites
and social media - and enhancement of services by phone, at a cost of
$1 million. The province has set up, a site designed
to assist children, youth and their parents/guardians in getting
information on street drugs and available addictions treatment

Five new full-time mental health and addictions counsellors are being
placed in Labrador to serve the communities of Nain, Hopedale,
Makkovik and Natuashish, at a cost of $2.2 million.

Another $195,300 will be spent on new mental health intake workers in
Labrador West and Happy Valley-Goose Bay. Two case managers will go to
Placentia and Bonne Bay at a cost of about $200,000 combined.

The province has also hired its first rural case managers for youth
with addictions. They will be placed in Corner Brook and Grand Falls-
Windsor, also at a cost of about $200,000.

Perhaps most significant is the continued commitment to a new youth
treatment facility in Central Newfoundland, that entered the planning
stage in 2009.

Construction on the new treatment centre was expected to begin this
spring in Grand Falls-Windsor. Kennedy admits there have been delays,
but said construction will begin this year.

"The site has been identified and approved and what we're looking at
right now is sending out the tender for the construction of the
facility, and that will be done in the very near future," he said.

Grand Falls-Windsor Mayor Allan Hawkins said the health centre for
addictions treatment also caused "some concerns" among residents, but
he feels those concerns have since been addressed. He said the
treatment facility is a "great thing" and "long overdue."

"I applaud the province, actually, for identifying (a) need and taking
care of our young people who, for some reason, maybe not of their own
making but for whatever reason, find themselves in difficult

Kennedy said the next order of business is to reduce wait times for
appointments with counsellors and specialists such as child

He said he has set a meeting with the CEOs of the regional health
authorities and that will include discussion of availability of mental
health and addictions services in rural areas.

Meanwhile, anyone seeking help with a mental health or addictions
should see their family doctor. Emergency calls should be made to
local emergency numbers. However, for general assistance on where to
go for help, calls can be made to the Newfoundland and Labrador
HealthLine at 1-888-709-2929.

While hard numbers on drug use are not available, a student drug use
survey in 2007 shows the majority of young people do not use drugs.
Approximately one-quarter of the 3,848 students in grades 7 to 12
surveyed reported using marijuana in the last year, 5.3 per cent
stated they had used cocaine and 7.2 per cent tried ecstasy.

Estimates have placed the level of youth with drug dependency issues
at between one and three per cent of kids age 15-19.
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