FORT FRANCES—Given the recent initiatives for substance abuse prevention and services in the community, therapists at Family and Children’s Services here are working towards improving their knowledge and expertise in substance abuse counselling.
“Family and Children’s Service does have a mental health program, but where we have a deficit is in regard to clinicians with substance abuse counselling experience and training,” noted Troy Clink, manager of Children’s Mental Health.
“What we’ve been able to do is bring in trainers to speak to us and that is definitely a huge focus of what we’re trying to do this year. It’s a big part of our service plan,” he explained.
Clink said although the five therapists in Fort Frances and the two in Atikokan have received some training, it takes time to build a program to support substance abuse issues, which is their goal.
“Substance abuse counselling is a specialty, so it’s not something we can do overnight, but we are working towards becoming savvy in treating substance abuse issues,” Clink stressed.
He explained substance abuse issues don’t occur independent of mental health issues, meaning many people who suffer from depression or anxiety find a drug, whether it be marijuana, alcohol, etc., which calms their nerves or helps them forget what they are depressed about.
“That’s how the two act in concert, so to have a thorough substance abuse program, you need to be able to deal with the mental health component, as well as the substance abuse component,” Clink said.
And since the therapists at FACS have experience with mental health issues, but not so much with substance abuse, they are investing a lot of attention to it.
Clink noted FACS also is pursuing funding to help set up a substance abuse program there.
He added it would be ideal to have enough funds to hire a full-time substance abuse clinician since there isn’t many services for youth dealing with substance abuse in the area.
“It’s a need I noticed almost right away,” he said, noting he moved to Fort Frances about a year ago.
While the local group, Parents Against Illicit Narcotics (PAIN), has been instrumental about gaining youth addictions services, primarily residential services in the district, Clink said he sees that as an initiative with a long process.
“It would be great . . . but for the interim, this is what we should strive for,” he remarked, adding once clients come out of the residential program, they still need to have community support available to them.
“It’s all working toward the same goal,” Clink stressed.
FACS has been developing a partnership with the Smith Clinic in Thunder Bay by bringing in some of their clinicians to speak in order to gain expertise in substance abuse counselling.
Smith Clinic offers the only program in the province that provides residential addiction services to youths age 12-17. While there are programs for those 16 and over, only the Smith Clinic has beds for those under 16.
“She showed us how we could refer to kids to the Smith Centre regarding their substance abuse issues,” Clink noted. “So we have the capability of referring kids there, which is really cool because we had no idea before that presentation.”
But there are just nine beds at the Smith Clinic and it is almost always full of youths from all across Ontario.
“[The presenter] said most of the clients come from southern Ontario, so it’s kind of crazy that we’re not having more clients going there since we have the proximity,” Clink said.
The therapists at FACS will continue to work with clinicians from the Smith Clinic to develop a substance abuse counselling program there, but will use what they’ve learned so far to offer any help the can to youths with addictions.
“I would welcome kids with substance abuse issues because any support is better than none at all,” Clink stressed. “[The program] is going to be a work in progress and we’ll continue to get more and more effective at it as we practice.”
In other news regarding substance abuse initiatives locally, an idea to start up a youth group for teens was discussed at a recent PAIN meeting.
Hugh Dennis, co-ordinator of the Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team, said they’d like to offer a place for youths to share, vent, and feel safe when discussing their issues.
As well, the group is again sending out petitions to the provincial government, which were circulated across Rainy River District this past summer requesting the establishment of youth addiction services and increased drug enforcement in the area.
They want to ensure the new cabinet is aware of their request for help.
However, they did receive a response from the minister of Community Safety and Correctional Services, who directed PAIN to work with the OPP detachment commander in Fort Frances regarding drug enforcement.
He also noted he passed on their request to the minister of Health Promotion and others.
These initiatives will be addressed further at the next meeting of PAIN, which is slated for Monday, Dec. 3 at 7 p.m. at the Northwestern Health Unit office here (396 Scott St.)
Members of the public are welcome to attend.
For more information, contact Dennis at 274-9827.
(Fort Frances Times)