Pubdate: Fri, 28 Nov 2014
Source: Kenora Daily Miner And News (CN ON)
Page: 3
Copyright: 2014 Kenora Daily Miner and News
Author: Alan S. Hale


Substance Abuse And Mental Health Task Force Outlines Its Initiatives
 From Past Year

The leaders of the Kenora Substance Abuse and Mental Health Task
Force's five different pillars stood up at their AGM on Thursday
morning, Nov. 27, to lay out what their branch of the task force has
been up to for the past year and what they plan to do in the next
several months.

The task force has adopted a five-pillar approach to combating the
variety of social ills in Kenora that stem from substance abuse and
mental health problems in the community. The pillars are treatment,
harm reduction, enforcement, prevention/education, and the newest
pillar adopted last year: housing.

The treatment pillar includes initiatives that seek to improve the
physical, emotional and psychological health and wellbeing of people
who abuse substances such as drugs and alcohol. Recently the Northwest
Local Health Integrated Network invited the task force to submit a
funding application for a Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder case manager.

"This is great news, guys," said treatment pillar lead, Patti
Dryden-Holmstrom. "We'll be looking to see how that position could
integrate into what is already happening within the courts."

They're also working with the drug treatment court which tries to keep
drug users out of the regular justice system and keep them from
re-offending. Next week, substance abuse workers will be sent into the
Kenora Jail to provide a structured relapse prevention program for

The task force is still working on the establishment of a managed
alcohol program in Kenora and has been examining possible locations.
The program is somewhat controversial because it would provide its
residents with a controlled amount of alcohol - in the form of wine -
at regular times throughout the day. Dryden-Holmstrom says the project
is a kind of replacement therapy that can help severe alcoholics
stabilize their lives.

"This is something we're hoping to offer in Kenora within the next 12
months or so to individuals that have had life-long struggles with
alcohol and generational issues with alcohol. Managed alcohol programs
can be considered an early entry into the treatment system. Some might
choose to stay with the service, but others may decide to continue on
through the treatment continuum," she said.

The harm reduction pillar incorporates a range of strategies that
protect the health of drug users rather than trying to get them to
abstain from drugs or alcohol. The most well-known of these
initiatives in Kenora is the clean needle exchange which provides
sterile needles to intravenous drug users to prevent STD transition
and other problems which can come from reusing and sharing needles.

As of this year, the exchange has been expanded and is also giving out
safe inhalation and snorting kits to users. The exchange is also
giving out kits with doses of Naloxone that can reduce an opiate
overdose and training users how to apply it.

"There are about 20 kits out in the community right now ... We've had
reports that one of our kits was used during overdoses in Winnipeg, as
well as in Red Lake and other small communities. So it is making a
difference," said harm reduction lead Patty McPhearson.

A peer ambassador program has also been created, and two outreach
workers were hired to run it. The program, says McPhearson, has been a
significant success.

"They have been able to achieve a thing we will never be able to as
nurses where there's that power imbalance. The education that happens
between peers is unbelievable; they're going into people's homes,
they've done group sessions with Naloxone where people were more
comfortable," she said. "I think in this new year we'll be seeing a
lot more kits going out."

Kenora OPP Inspector Dave Lucas spoke about the enforcement pillar,
which is the regular police response to illegal substance use and its
effects in the community. Lucas says that while the police are doing
good work, he admits real progress on the substance abuse issue is
difficult to achieve.

"We're not going to arrest our way out of the issues we have in this
community; there's no question about it. When it comes to those
high-risk repeat offenders, we go after them relentlessly because
that's our job," said Lucas. "We need to hold offenders accountable,
but have the appropriate linkages to community support."

Lucas reaffirmed his commitment to the establishment of a managed
alcohol program in Kenora, which he said was a missing piece in the

"It's not all about enforcement; it's not even close," he said.
"Enforcement is an important part of the strategy, but it's really not
a priority, (the other four pillars) are what will address the
problems in the community."

Prevention and education efforts consist of programs and campaigns
which try to stop, or at least delay, people from becoming substance
abusers. Prevention lead Michelle Ott says they have had significant
participation from the local LCBO stores in town.

Besides participating in campaigns to deliver anti-drinking messages
in the stores, LCBO staff have been cracking down on questionable
sales of alcohol by challenging people they think are drunk, trying to
buy alcohol for minors or other circumstances.

"During 2012/13, the Kenora store tallied just over 15,000 challenges.
That's pretty substantial," said prevention lead Michelle Ott. "So far
this year, it's been over 18,000."

Other prevention initiatives include the OPP Kids Program, which is an
updated and more technology-focused version of DARE, and an eight-week
family strengthening program.

Officially adopted as a task force pillar last year, housing
encompasses efforts to increase the accessibility of affordable
housing in Kenora.

The task force sees providing more housing without preconditions as
the ultimate solution to homelessness in Kenora. To that end, they are
helping to establish a new housing database which they hope to have up
and running by the new year, information collection surveys for the
database next week.

"That database will be accessible to everybody. Whether you're curious
about where the numbers are right now or whether you're developing a
proposal and need current statistics, it'll all be right there," said
Nan Normand of Making Kenora Home.

When it comes to building new housing, the people working in the
pillar are still considering all the options and trying to determine
the best way to get people housed, getting people to have pride of
ownership, and not creating buildings destined to become slums in the

"We have to answer the question of what is the best housing option,
and how do we choose who gets to move into them first," said Fred
Wright, who is in charge of building projects.  
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