FORT FRANCES—Members of Parents Against Illicit Narcotics (PAIN) have collected the petitions which recently were circulated across Rainy River District requesting the establishment of youth addiction services and increased drug enforcement in the area.
And with 1,632 signatures, the group is thrilled with the support from district residents.
“Certainly what we wanted to do with the petition itself was to find if we had the support of district people,” noted Hugh Dennis, co-ordinator of the Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team.
“Obviously there’s a lot of support in the district for the request for help from the government,” he added.
The petitions, along with a cover letter signed by PAIN chairperson Sharon Strachan on behalf of residents of Rainy River District and letters of support, were sent off last Wednesday to the provincial government, including Health and Long Term Care minister George Smitherman.
Petitions also were to Jim Watson (minister of health promotion), Mary Anne Chambers (minister of children and youth services), Monte Kwinter (minister of community safety and correctional services), and Attorney General Michael Bryant.
“We are a diverse group of concerned community members in the Rainy River District that have come the realization that drug abuse is reaching epidemic proportions in our area,” the cover letter reads.
“Anecdotal information estimates that approximately 65 percent of youth in our district have used illicit drugs,” it adds. “The crime that results in supporting a $200-$1,000 per week habit makes it a community problem.”
They stress they want to reduce the social cost of drug abuse and its consequences for families, health, education, crime, and employment.
But since the area is faced with a gap in youth addiction services for counselling and treatment, there are waits of three-four months before youths can receive help.
PAIN not only requested the government ministries to help establish a youth treatment facility in the district, but also:
•specific youth counselling services;
•an integrated approach through local hospitals to ensure appropriate medical care for withdrawal management;
•local access to a comprehensive range of integrated methadone maintenance treatment services;
•a commitment to safer communities; and
•a larger role for the justice system in drug enforcement.
“Recognizing that this is an election period, we also sent a copy of the cover letter and letters of support to the eight candidates running in the Rainy River District—the four from Thunder Bay representing Atikokan and the four throughout the Kenora-Rainy River [riding],” Dennis indicated.
He said they’ve invited each local candidate to meet with members of PAIN to get their position on the request for help from the government.
“For example, the Liberals made an announcement last week that they have increased funding by $8.7 million for under-serviced municipalities or areas, and we are wondering if we are going to get any of that money if the Liberals are re-elected,” Dennis wondered.
And if the Liberals are not re-elected on Oct. 10, the group would like to know if the other parties would honour that commitment.
Members of PAIN met with local Liberal candidate Mike Wood last Thursday evening.
“I know it’s caught their attention,” said Dennis, noting he’s already got calls back from some of the candidates.
“Within 24 hours of the petition going out, we’re meeting with one of the candidates, so that speaks highly towards that we got their attention,” he remarked.
After next month’s election, the group plans to re-issue the petition to the government in power to see how it will help, or if the Liberals will give them some of the money promised prior to the election to bring resources, such as a treatment centre or counselling/education awareness services, to this area.
Dennis also indicated that although they currently are seeking assistance from the government to establish youth addiction services in the district, if one of the municipalities or areas from Riverside Health Care Facilities, Inc. decide a treatment centre is something they want to pursue, PAIN would be interested in helping them.
“District residents feel there is a need and if somebody runs with that ball, we’ll certainly do everything we can to offer assistance,” Dennis pledged.
(Fort Frances Times)