Crystal methamphetamines are burrowing their way back into the lives of Leduc residents and the Leduc Community Drug Action Committee is committed to stopping it.
During a presentation to City Council April 28, LCDAC youth development coordinator Heather Graham said, 10 years ago, 18 community members banded together to stop meth use from becoming the epidemic it had become in other Alberta communities. “It hadn’t gotten as bad as it was in the Yellowhead region, but crystal meth was a huge issue in our community at that time.”
Using a multi-pronged approach to attacking the drug problem, Graham said the use of crystal meth tapered off with the formation of the LCDAC, but they are seeing it once again being used by adolescents in the community.
“One of the things most concerning to us is meth is back in our community and we’re seeing in our youth,” she said.
Stopping the use of meth among teens is problematic because treatment options for users are extremely limited in the area and there is no residential treatment program available in Leduc.
Currently, parents of users are taking their teens into Edmonton to the Royal Alexandra Hospital and hoping for admittance but Graham said only two per cent of the users with additional mental health issues are being admitted, despite the fact the majority of users have mental health issues. CASA House offers excellent programs, said Graham, but there is currently a one-year waiting lists after patients have been diagnosed by a psychiatrist.
“Addicts use for very legitimate reasons,” said Graham. “It’s a problem solving issue. They hurt and want to ease their pain. We need to look at long-term resources for kids who are hurting, struggling and at risk.”
In addition to mental health issues, LCDAC Chair Jessie Boyle said many teens find their way into drugs because there are issues at home and they don’t want to be there but there are few resources for youth in Leduc.
“A lack of resources for youth to meet and socially interact encourages drug use…we need to be sensitive to that and make sure they have the resources to really thrive in every day life.”
Currently, the LCDAC provides parent education programs in the community which includes one-on-one assistance and group classes.
“We work with the family to get treatment for you and support for parents,” said Graham.
A second addictions counselor was hired, which drops the wait times for addicts from three or four weeks to one or two.
“The second counselor made a massive difference in getting help for people in a timely manner.”
LCDAC hosted a Dinner and Dialogue which saw more than 100 people, from all walks of life in Leduc, gather together to share opinions and ideas.
“We wanted to know what our citizens thought and sometimes it got interesting,” said Graham, noting ages ranged from teens to seniors.
A major point raised was there was nothing for young adults to do in Leduc on Friday and Saturday nights as Leduc does not have a youth centre.
“My favourite thing about Dinner and Dialogue is that we gave youth an opportunity to be moderators.”
This year, Dinner and Dialogue is being modified to Pizza and Chat. Moving the event into the schools there will be discussions on how to be safe when partying, educating youth about drink standards and what actually constitutes a drink.
Graham said they have discovered that when teens drink they are free pouring alcohol so even when they have one or two drinks they are still consuming three to four ounces of alcohol in each beverage.
To encourage alternative choices to alcohol consumption, LCDAC is giving $500 to each high school in its jurisdiction which chooses to host an alcohol-free grad and have already provided money to Leduc Composite High School to fund extracurricular activities.
Graham said staff at the high school noticed a large number of students loitering in the school after the final bell because they didn’t want to go home. LCDAC decided to help fund after school activities because the students and staff are already there.
“These youth are looking for something healthy and safe to do.”
While the City’s Rock the Rails summer festival at the Leduc Skate Park is an excellent example of engaging youth in safe activities, Graham said more needs to be done.
“Our children need access to resources that make them safe and healthy.” One dollar invested early prevents problems later.”
She encouraged adults to avoid stereotyping teens, that positive behaviour needed to be noticed and acknowledge and the City needed to find ways to engage youth so they felt like a part of the community.
To that end, LCDAC has been working with the City’s Park staff to encourage them to find tasks for youths that will give them a sense of community pride.
LCDAC has also brought it’s program into the workforce to discuss alcohol use, said Graham and is encouraging a change toward moderation when it comes to drinking.
“We want to change the culture from intoxication to moderation.”
Councillor Bob Young suggested the City look at bylaws related to the number and location of liquor stores in Leduc, like the City of Wetaskawin has and asked Graham whether that would help LCDAC’s cause.
“When the number of liquor stores outnumber the number of food stores it sends a message that alcohol is important to the community,” said Graham.
Although LCDAC’s presentation was for information purposes only, Mayor Greg Krischke told the representatives is there was a financial way for the City to help, now would be the time to bring their request forward so it could be considered when 2015 budget discussions started.