Survey the first step in local drug strategy
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | April 4, 2017
Public input is needed to help develop a drug strategy to tackle substance abuse in Haliburton County and beyond.
The Haliburton, Kawartha, Pine Ridge District Health Unit (HKPR) is asking residents to complete a short online survey so they can gather important information to make that happen. The deadline is May 15.
As of April 3, 245 people had responded, including 38 from Haliburton County.
“This is an opportunity for people to have their say on what they feel are the priorities for a drug strategy,” said Charles Shamess, the drug strategy coordinator.
“We’d love to have everyone’s opinion.”
Marg Cox, executive director of Point In Time Centre for Children, Youth and Parents, is also encouraging residents to complete the survey.
“With the rising level of poverty, mental health needs, stigma and lack of transportation in our area, there are significant obstacles for our community members to effectively access services that may be required,” said Cox in a release. “By completing this survey, residents will help us better understand the needs and potential challenges for improving access to harm reduction and addiction services.”
The confidential survey is comprised of 13 questions. These query respondents about their own use of substances as well as those around them. One question asks them to list their top three concerns associated with alcohol and drug use in the community.
The strategy will be tailored to the areas the HKPR serves—Haliburton County, the City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County. Shamess is hoping to get proportional representation from each county.
Last year, the HKPR, along with PARN (AIDS resource network), Fourcast and the Kawartha Lakes police, formed a steering committee and obtained a $285,000 grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation to develop the strategy over three years. It will focus on four main areas: drug use prevention, harm reduction, treatment, and justice and enforcement.
About 40 organizations and 70 people are involved in its development, said Shamess. Two new subcommittees are being created to address youth issues and substance use.
Also in the works is a harm reduction program. Using a van, they will be able to reach people in Haliburton County and the City of Kawartha Lakes to offer a mobile needle exchange and Hepatitis C testing. It will come around once a week, and will hopefully launch in May or June.
Regional drug strategies are common across Ontario and public input has been used to create them, he said.
“Public input is crucial to create an effective, coordinated drug strategy for our region that leads to a safer, healthier community for everyone.”
Once the deadline has passed, Shamess will analyze the data and present it to the drug strategy committee. Two town hall meetings will take place in each county, probably sometime in the fall. One will be for service providers and the other for the public.
To fill out the survey, visit hkprdrugstrategy.ca. Respondents must be at least 12 years old.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.