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Feature - Putting the pillars into place

Building a better drug and alcohol strategy



The first step to recovery is admitting the problem. Pemberton and Mount Currie have recently recommitted to this first step and have gone further by offering up potential solutions to the area’s substance abuse problems.

Recent meetings of both the Pemberton Healthy Communities Committee and the Pemberton-Mount Currie Drug and Alcohol Task Force have generated numerous suggestions to address this issue. Everything from creating citizens’ patrols of well-known outdoor drinking areas to employing an approach similar to the City of Vancouver’s Four Pillar approach has been brought forward.

The question now is when can the affected communities expect to see tangible results?

Pemberton Mayor Elinor Warner, who sits on the task force and observes the Healthy Communities Committee when available, and Dan Reist, a consultant to the task force from the Kaiser Foundation, are certain that positive change is imminent. However, both cite an impending task force report as the basis for implementing any new strategies.

"First we have to examine the report," says Warner. "The task force will sit down and really look at it closely. And then we have a commitment to take it back to the community in September and talk about what we can implement."

Characterizing the task force’s June 15 all-day workshop as having "a lot of goodwill" Warner added that many solid concepts for community building were also brought forward. "One of the great ideas was to do things together, such as a holding a Mayor and Chief’s Picnic."

"I can’t say what the ultimate (strategic) plan will look like. That has to come from the community. It has to reflect its priorities," says Reist, the Kaiser Foundation president who was instrumental in the City of Vancouver’s Four Pillars Drug Strategy.

Reist admits that he believes the resulting community action plan will be similar to the controversial Vancouver strategy, a multi-sector approach that is grounded in the harm reduction philosophy. This multi-prong approach would require an examination of community assets as well as the involvement and co-operation of many existing resources, such as the RCMP, health services, social services and educational institutions.

Working from the assumption that addiction is a health issue and not a criminal issue, Vancouver’s Four Pillars approach incorporates the following measures:

• Harm Reduction — reducing the spread of deadly communicable diseases, preventing drug overdose deaths, increasing substance users’ contact with health care services and drug treatment programs, and reducing consumption of drugs in the street;

• Prevention — using a variety of strategies to help people understand substance misuse, the negative health impacts and legal risks associated with substance use and abuse, encouraging people to make healthy choices, and providing opportunities to help reduce the likelihood of substance abuse, including affordable housing, employment training and jobs, recreation and long-term economic development;