It’s been almost five years since the death of young Leo Ross, and members of the Pemberton and Mount Currie communities haven’t forgotten their tragic loss.
In May 2002, the 15-year-old Mount Currie resident was killed in an alcohol-fuelled beating at a well-known drinking hangout in Pemberton.
In the aftermath of the brutal death, Mount Currie and Pemberton citizens united to form the Winds of Change drug and alcohol task force, based on the shared belief that their communities suffered from substance abuse problems.
Shortly after the task force was struck in the spring of 2003, the group published a 17-page report that examined drug and alcohol problems within both communities, and concluded that to solve these issues, Mount Currie and Pemberton needed to work together. Since then, the Winds of Change committee has continued to work co-operatively on projects to make the Pemberton and Mount Currie area a healthier place to live.
“From my perspective, I like to look at it as the health of the mind, body and spirit,” said Maxine Bruce, one of the chairs of Winds of Change.
Bruce said it’s not just about drugs and alcohol, but about working together to explore “the whole concept of health.”
However, WOCs latest initiative is zeroing in on the issue of substance abuse; examining whether a drug and alcohol treatment facility is necessary, or possible, in the Pemberton area.
Through a $35,000 grant provided by UBCM, the WOC committee hired NG Bach & Associates. Company President Rick FitzZaland began the consultation process in early summer, gathering information through focus groups, individual interviews and joint meetings. He has also been examining models and standards from other areas to see what could work for the Pemberton valley.
“We want to give them the tools they need to do this next step and really to give them the information they need, some strategies, and help them in putting together a plan that has some chance of working and of supporting their other efforts,” FitzZaland said last week.
He says it is important to understand that treatment is part of the overall health of the community, but isn’t the whole solution, as it doesn’t address underlying issues that lead to substance abuse problems.
“The real need is for specific programs that are well-integrated with the work that’s being done by both communities in the Pemberton valley to improve the health of the community.”
Lori Pilon, administrator for the Village of Pemberton, says the working relationship between the WOC’s First Nations and non-native groups has taken a while to develop but it is unique.