Pubdate: Wed, 09 Aug 2017
Source: Lake Country Calendar (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Black Press
Author: Barry Gerding


Online survey results to be discussed at Kelowna forum

An Okanagan drug treatment agency is heading up a conversation about
drug abuse among Central Okanagan youth.

The Bridge Youth &Family Services in Kelowna, with support from the
children and youth mental health and substance use local action team,
want to initiate a dialogue about how to best serve young people
who're experimenting with or are addicted to drugs.

Jamie McGregor, program coordinator for youth detox and adult
supported recovery, said problematic substance abuse has been an
ongoing concern in the Central Okanagan now for decades, noting that
last year 319 people under the age of 29 died of an opioid overdose in

The Interior Health board heard last week statistical evidence
indicating that Kelowna has a greater fatal drug overdose problem per
capita than Vancouver's notorious downtown eastside.

The board was also told by staff of the need for local health, civic
government and social service agencies in Kelowna specifically to come
together to discuss ways to address the drug overdose crisis.

The Bridge is taking that step, McGregor said, by initiating a brief
survey online called Starting The Conversation 
and to express their thoughts over social media using

On Sept. 21, McGregor said a public forum, called Continue The
Conversation, will be held in Kelowna at the Laurel Packinghouse to
discuss the survey results and host a panel discussion where public
input will be welcomed.

McGregor said while The Bridge's focal area is the Central Okanagan,
he encourages anyone across the Okanagan Valley interested or
concerned about this issue to participate in the survey and attend the

The Bridge is a non-profit organization that has been providing
counselling, education and support services within the Central
Okanagan since 1969.

McGregor says the hope is their initiative will create some momentum
to pursue solutions to the drug overdose epidemic, bolstered by
working with local groups such as the Okanagan Boys and Girls Club and
The Foundry, a mental health services centre slated to open this month.

He said seeking solutions also means addressing the social stigma
often associated with drug abuse, and in what ways the community
should respond to people who have become drug addicts.

"It's not always the idea that people are using these substances
because it's their fault for making that choice or because of their
lifestyle," he said. "In the larger perspective, that is not the case.
We need to treat this as a medical and social issue, not through the
criminal justice system."
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