Pubdate: Fri, 01 Dec 2017
Source: Expositor, The (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Brantford Expositor
Author: Michelle Ruby
Page: A1


First co-ordinator of drugs strategy says community role key to

As the first co-ordinator of a plan to address local drug use, Lacey
DaSilva knows she has been handed a weighty task.

The Brantford-Brant Community Drugs Strategy, officially launched
earlier this month, sets out goals to delay or prevent substance abuse
and keep those already using safe and healthy.

It also aims to ensure residents have timely access to services and to
reframe addiction from an issue of criminal justice to one of public

"It's not a one-person job," said DaSilva from an office at St.
Leonard's Community Services, one of the partners that put together
the strategy, along with the city, Brant County Health Unit and
Brantford police. "It's a community endeavour." DaSilva, who studied
social work and political science at Hamilon's McMaster University,
grew up and attended school in Brantford. She said her capacity for
empathy seemed to be innate.

"I've always had a drive to make a difference. I've been friends with
people in the margins and my compassion has evolved."

As a younger person, she recalls being horrified reading about the
Rwandan genocide when up to one million Rwandans where killed during
the 100-day period from April 6 to mid-July 1994.

"It really impacted me, thinking about how injustice can grow that
big," said DaSilva. "Later, I realized it doesn't matter what you do,
whatever is in your hands you can use for social justice, for common

Entrenched in that belief, DaSilva began her career working with at
risk youth in Hamilton. These were young people with mental health and
addiction issues, some of them homeless and couch surfing.

DaSilva came to St. Leonard's in 2014 as part of the agency's relief
staff and then became an intake worker for people with drug addiction.

"That role gave me an inside view of some of the barriers clients face
when they seek help for substance abuse."

Those barriers can include: wait times for treatment; transportation
issues, particularly for those living in rural communities; physical
challenges. The list, said DaSilva, is lengthy.

"If you don't have secure housing, if you're in withdrawal, if you had
a fight last night, it's not easy."

A Canadian Community Health Survey of residents in BrantfordBrant
shows that local substance use significantly exceeds provincial averages.

Almost 50 per cent of local residents exceed the low-risk alcohol
drinking guidelines.

Fifty-three per cent reported having used an illicit drug in their
lifetime (including one-time cannabis use) compared to just 43 per
cent of Ontario residents.

Fifty-three per cent of respondents, aged 18 and older, reported
having used cannabis in their lifetime (including one-time use), which
is a significantly higher proportion than that among Ontario residents.

Between seven and 14 per cent of residents identified having used
crack/cocaine, amphetamine (speed), MDMA (ecstasy), and
hallucinogen/PCP/LSD in their lifetime.

Local data from a needle exchange program indicates that opioids
(morphine, hydromorphine/dilaudid, heroin, fentanyl) are the preferred
drugs among clients. The needle program has seen a 10 per cent
increase in clients to 5,751 in 2016 from 5,186 in 2011. However,
during that period, the number of new needles handed out grew by 113
per cent to 384,037 from 180,440.

DaSilva said her role involves working with partners - including the
city, county, health unit, school boards, emergency services, police -
and taking stock of what is already being done so there is no
duplication of services.

They are now in the process of prioritizing the drugs strategy's 38
wide-ranging recommendations, "evaluating the most pressing issues and
the ones we can mobilize quickly."

DaSilva acknowledged it's an ambitious plan.

Already underway is a harm reduction campaign led by the health unit
that will result in more access to naloxone and clean needles. The
city has committed to making community hubs, social services and
community centres as places to reach people who need help.

"We need other levels of government and stakeholders to provide
resources to the community, but we are certainly committed to pursuing
every opportunity that's available to us. The more we can do, the
healthier our community will be in the long run," said DaSilva.

DaSilva's job is funded for one year but Julie Smith, manager of
addictions and mental health at St. Leonard's, said other communities,
including Guelph and Waterloo, have had similar positions in place for

"We are looking at how to sustain Lacey's position," said

"There are some lofty things in the strategy that could take several
years to address."
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