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Integrated Drug Strategy

Tue Apr 25, 2006 Miss Vicky 

I spent the evening at the city's Integrated Drug Strategy consultation at Tom Brown Arena. Responding to questions and concerns were four members of the initiative: Deputy police chief Sue O'Sullivan, Chief Medical Officer of Health David Salisbury, a woman from the Children's Aid Society and another fellow whose name and context I didn't quite catch. After a brief update on the process and their work to date, the panel members presented what they feel are the 10 key issues on which we need to focus our efforts and our resources. They were looking for our feedback on these and some sense of our top priorities.

The issues range from the absence of treatment facilities for youth to lack of affordable housing to the need to balance the increase in HIV and Hepatitis rates among drug users while balancing community safety concerns. And let me tell you, all 10 are equally important. Certainly I would have a hard time coming up with 3 priorities from the list.

I others felt the same way. We heard some passionate statements from the 75 or so folks who attended the meeting - stories from parents of addicted teens, who had to go out of province to find help, to expressions of frustration from people who face addicts and related criminal behaviour (prostitution, breaking and entering, fights) on a daily basis in their immediate neighbourhood. We heard positive stories about the success in Hintonburg in dealing with problem properties, one by one, and we heard our neighbours in Dalhousie bemoan the increased presence of open drug use and prostitution in their area. Each story illustrated in its own way the importance of an integrated strategy that gives equal weight to each of the "four pillars". And generally, people at the meeting were very supportive of the goals and objectives of the initiative.

But there was also a lot of cynicism in the room, and perhaps a smidge or two of hopelessness, because everyone (including the panel members) recognized that without political will and a commitment of resources, all the discussion and good intentions will amount to very little. Without some commitment from the province to start funding treatment, providing better primary health care, improve social housing, and develop its own drug strategy (Ontario must might be the only province without one), we can only do so much. And as for the local government, let's hope that the current council - and the next one - recognizes that studying the problem and coming up with strategies are only a quarter of the battle when it comes to complex social problems like this one.

Some people were moved to reply

Miss Vicky Apr 26, 2006 06:08 PM said:

CBC reports that addictions to tobacco, alcohol and drugs cost our economy nearly $40 Billion a year. Surely a bit of investment from all levels of government is called for!

ABC May 3, 2006 11:10 AM said:

Just as long as they don't start opening up drug facilities where they give them pipes and so forth. These people need to be arrested and forced into rehab and keep them there until rehabilitated.

The Webgeek May 3, 2006 04:22 PM said:

ABC,
you may want to talk to your employer then, because it seems that they're actually handing out funds to set up needle and pipe exchange programs.

Just in case you didn't know.

ABC May 5, 2006 10:20 AM said:

I did know that Health Canada was in support of this, it was a Liberal government policy. I have never seen credible statistics on these drug sites that they have reduced crime and drug use. I've listened to CFRA on this and they claim there hasn't been any stats on this either.

Miss Vicky May 5, 2006 11:21 AM said:

Vancouver's experience would reveal otherwise. Anyway, methadone clinics and other harm reduction strategies are not meant to replace treatment, but to reduce the impact of addiction on the broader community and address important public health issues. In some cases, they have helped addicts move on into recovery programs. But they certainly help address rising HIV and Hep C rates (in Ottawa ours are skyrocketing, by the way). Enforcement alone does not address the problems caused by addiction - look how successful the "war on drugs" has been! Hence the more balanced, 4 pillar approach. Heck, even the Canadian Medical Association advocates this. I tend to trust them more than the CFRA.

And there are stats out there about the efficacy of these programs. It's a little early to look at Vancouver, but the study they did before they began their new program did comprehensive research on the success of initiatives in other cities. Let's take Franfurt:

Again, a coordinated approach using enforcement measures and harm-reduction programs had very positive outcomes.

• Public consumption of drugs was greatly reduced.
• The number of street users dropped from 1,500 to 100-200 throughout the city.
• The HIV rate among injection drug users decreased from 25% to 14%.

Current statistics show a major decrease in drug-related activity over the past seven years.

number of open drug injectors per day 1992:1,500 1999: 50
number of addicts 1992: 10,000 1999: 3,000
number of dealers 1992: 5,000 1999: 1,400
number of non-resident addicts 1992: 65% 1999: 20%
'....

7.3 c) Crime-related Outcomes
• Theft from auto was reduced by 36%
• Break-ins were reduced by 13%
• Grievous bodily harm was reduced by 19%
• Registered first-time users of hard drugs decreased by 39%
• By 1997, drug related court cases had dropped by 15%

Frankfurt’s comprehensive program is widely condoned in Germany and receives financial support from the local business community.


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