Pubdate: Sat, 02 Dec 2017
Source: Sun Times, The (Owen Sound, CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Owen Sound Sun Times
Author: Rob Gowan
Page: A3


Grey-Bruce task force expands mandate from mostly meth to other drugs,

The Grey Bruce Task Force on Crystal Meth and Other Drugs is expanding
its mandate.

As part of the expansion, the group, which involves a network of over
30 local partners, has changed its name to the Community Drug and
Alcohol Strategy.

"We recognize there continues to be crystal met husein the community,
so we are not saying we have solved the problem and it is time to move
on to something else," Alison Govier, coordinator of the Community
Drug and Alcohol Strategy said Friday. "But we are also seeing a trend
in polysubstance use -- dependence on more than one substance at a
time -- so we feel as a community our efforts are better spent to
expand the mandate to include all substances."

According to the strategy, emergency room visits related to substance
use increased by 65 per cent between 2002 and 2015, with alcohol
involved in the majority of cases, followed by opioid use.

Govier said the strategy intends to work together collectively to
reduce harms related to all the substances, including alcohol,
opioids, marijuana, crystal meth, or a combination of substances.

"It is definitely a really complex issue and I think that is why we
have to have a community response and have all of the partners across
all the different sectors come together," said Govier. "If there was
an easy fix we wouldn't need to come together, but it is one of those
systemic, complex issues."

The strategy group is made up of treatment services, justice and
enforcement agencies, school boards, harm reduction services as well
as county social services and housing representatives, family
physicians and pharmacists. An opioid working group also includes
representatives from area paramedic and police services.

When the local task force formed in 2009 it was very focused on
establishing supports for crystal meth users and their families, as
there was a concerning trend of increased use among young people in
Grey-Bruce at the time. But over the years, the task force expanded
its mandate to include other drugs, with some of the initiatives of
the group including training sessions for first responders, and
address the stigma around substance misuse.

About a year-and-a-half ago group members found they needed to refresh
things to delve into current issues in the community. Govier was hired
as the coordinator to consult with service providers and community
members to identify priorities, an exercise that continues.

They have compiled what data they can find on substance use in the
area, and plan to release that to the community partners so they can
use it in some of their programming.

Some priorities relate to supports for a person at risk or
experiencing harm from substance abuse, including affordable housing,
service gaps in smaller communities, and having a family physician.

"We have been working more closely with family doctors and ER
departments to talk about how we can support people who might be
struggling with alcohol or opioid dependence and make sure we are
offering the right kind of treatment," said Govier.

Representatives from the group will visit Grey County council on Dec.
14 and Bruce County council on Jan. 4 to talk about the root causes of
opioid addiction and local strategies to prevent overdose, as well as
keep councils up to date on the work of the group. In the new year
they also plan to do community consultations across Grey-Bruce.

Govier said dealing with substance misuse in the community would be a
daunting task if not for the task force, which has brought influential
community leaders together.

"They have started to build trust, build partnerships, and so I think
we have a really good foundation to look at this as a community and
what are our local and sort of unique challenges in Grey-Bruce," said

The strategy provides a way to bring the substance use to the
forefront and educate people about it, especially with all the
attention the opioid crisis is getting of late, Govier said.

"As we address the opioid crisis we can also talk about substance use
and addictions more broadly and look at it through this health lens
and it is really giving us a platform to do that," said Govier. "We
are definitely not forgetting about the harms associated with other
drugs, but looking at it as an opportunity to start a conversation
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MAP posted-by: Matt