Pubdate: Mon, 16 Mar 2015
Source: Sault Star, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2015 The Sault Star
Author: Brian Kelly
Page: A1


Health: Strategy Would Address Harms to Public

A community group that developed a recently launched program to fight 
fentanyl patch abuse now wants to create a strategy to combat drug 
abuse for the city.

Sault Ste. Marie and Area Drug Misuse Strategy Committee wants to 
recruit more members they feel will be essential to help decide what 
the document should include, said interim chair Sandy Byrne. 
Invitations will be made by late April with meetings of the expanded 
group starting in May. Start date for the drug strategy with a goal 
of addressing the harms to the public associated with substance use 
is not known.

Byrne noted "a collective concern" among committee members to keep 
working to combat drug abuse.

"We need to do something," she said. "We need to continue on this 
path. This was certainly something that was a priority that we wanted 
to get started."

The committee met recently for a debriefing on the fentanyl patch for 
patch program. It was officially launched Feb. 24 at Sault Ste. Marie 
Police Service. Residents who use the potent painkiller are now 
required to return used patches to pharmacies before they can get new ones.

The group has six members now. Similar strategies developed in North 
Bay and Thunder Bay had about 14 and 30 participants craft similar documents.

"It's about focusing on improvement and improving the community's 
well-being and safety," said Bryne, who is also manager of Algoma 
Public Health's alcohol and drug program. "We're going to start to 
build on what this drug strategy needs to focus on."

Goals for the group include offering support to drug users and 
preventing others from trying narcotics. "I think it will strengthen 
some of the work that's being done in the overall well-being and 
safety of our community for all people," said Byrne. "Maybe a drug 
strategy can help highlight some areas that we need more focus on."

Most clients who attend the program she manages want help with 
tobacco, alcohol, marijuana, cocaine and opioids.

The committee will review similar strategies used in other major 
Northern cities before creating a plan to deal with issues specific 
to the Sault. Byrne's group may try for provincial or federal funding 
to hire a researcher to pinpoint drug concerns in the city.

One source that could help in that assessment is research done by 
Algoma University's NORDIK Institute as part of Downtown Dialogue in 
Action Project.

The project's goal was to was to ensure a safe, vibrant downtown core 
and curb crime. NORDIK collected comments from about 1,000 residents 
and businesses. Its findings were released in 2014.

"We need to focus on the whole community to see what else is going 
on, so that we can develop this strategy that's going to focus on 
those high-risk needs and those issues that are associated with the 
substance use in the community," Byrne said.

Robert Keetch, chief of Sault Ste. Marie Police Service, is keen to 
see a drug strategy developed in the city.

He helped make a similar plan about four years ago when he served 
with Greater Sudbury Police. He worked with Brenda Stankiewicz, a 
public health nurse with Sudbury and District Health Unit, as past of 
that strategy's creation.

"Being intricately involved in that process, I can certainly see 
value of a strategy for Sault Ste. Marie," Keetch told The Sault 
Star. "I'm certainly getting that feedback from community partners as well."

He expects the strategy will include enforcement, intervention, harm 
reduction and prevention pillars. Drug use is "closely associated" 
with violent and property crime, said Keetch.

The patch for patch program is a "great component" of such a 
strategy, he added.

Byrne's committee began meeting last August. Members are Maria 
DeRubeis, a pharmacist at Group Health Centre, Jen Didonato, of 
Breton House's A New Link, Const. Darin Rossetto, community 
mobilization officer with city police, Dr. Al McLean, physician lead 
at Superior Family Health Team, and pharmacist Jon MacDonald of Jon's 
Medicine Shoppe.
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