FORT FRANCES—After having been involved in promoting safety across the district for a number of years, Hugh Dennis recently was named new co-ordinator for the Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team.
“I applied for the job because I’ve been a part of the community for years and I want to help the community stay healthy and get healthy through substance abuse prevention,” Dennis, the former detachment commander for the local OPP, said Tuesday morning.
“We need to work at educating and helping our young people with living in a community that doesn’t include substance abuse,” he stressed.
Dennis has a busy year ahead co-ordinating and supporting plenty of programs and awareness activities throughout the district—from Rainy River to Atikokan.
“We don’t want to preach to the kids. We want them to understand the impact and get them thinking,” explained SAP board member John Beaton, a local paramedic.
Some of its programs and promotions include Grab-a-Cab, D.A.R.E., Heroes, the impaired driving simulator car, activities at the United Native Friendship Centre, and “mocktail” bars at many local events.
“We want the community to be aware,” echoed Cst. Pete LeDrew of the CN Police, who is a fellow SAP board member. “We are there at most large events either as support or sponsors.”
But LeDrew indicated the local Substance Abuse Prevention Team also offers funding for any similar program.
“Anyone can apply for funding if they have an idea for a program,” he remarked. “And we also have many people with many years of experience to provide additional support, too.”
Their goal is to get the programs started and make them sustainable. They target anyone from youth, seniors, adults, and First Nations residents.
Dennis also will be assisting students at the high schools in Fort Frances, Rainy River, and Atikokan with their “chem-free” grads, offering both physical and financial support.
One of the newest programs he will be involved with this year is P.A.R.T.Y. (Preventing Alcohol Related Trauma in Youth).
This program, which has been in the works for a year, will target students in Grade 10 and should run this fall.
“It will go through the process of an accident,” explained Beaton, adding students will spend the day hearing from all people who would be involved—hospital staff, paramedics, physiotherapists, etc.
He noted they will make the “accident” as real as possible, turning a room in the hospital into a mock E.R. for those involved to “act” out the scenario.
The program also will incorporate a tour of a morgue.
“Once a year we try to have a big-ticket event and they’re always well-supported by the high schools,” Cst. LeDrew noted.
Dennis also attended at substance abuse summit in Dryden on the weekend, which he deemed “powerful.”
“I’d really like to get some of those people in to talk to our youth. It’s disturbing to hear the reality of abuse in our youth,” he stressed, noting children as young as Grades 5-8 are involved in substance abuse.
“We’ve got issues to deal with,” he warned.
The local SAP coalition was started in 1998, when it applied and was approved for five years of funding from the provincial government. The application was renewed in 2003 and will run until the end of March, 2008.
At that time, it’s hoped the group will be approved for subsequent years of funding.
“It’s been a busy three weeks with orientation and preparing, but it’s very important and we’re lucky to have this coalition,” Dennis remarked.
The SAP meets on the first Tuesday of every month at 12:30 p.m. at the Northwestern Health Unit office here (396 Scott St.) The public is welcome to attend.
Dennis also can be contacted at 274-9827 or at email@example.com