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Substance abuse prevention program launched


At least 25 organizations across the district have banded together under the Substance Abuse Prevention program to help communities reduce problems, including injuries, associated with alcohol and drug abuse.

Core team members include Riverside Community Counselling, the Riverside ambulance service, Family and Children’s Service, Voyageur Panel, the OPP, and the Rainy River Valley Safety Coalition.

The S.A.P. program, which will receive $95,000 in Ministry of Health funding per year for five years, will have four target areas--the workplace, youth, seniors, and First Nations.

Its goal is to help create safe communities where families, workplaces, and recreation activities are free from substance abuse.

“This is a great program for the whole district . . . to have money to decrease a very prevailing problem,” S.A.P. team co-ordinator Elaine Caron said yesterday.

“This is a preventive, not treatment based, program,” she stressed.

Caron said statistics show legal offences related to alcohol consumption and drug use in the Kenora and Rainy River districts are more than double the provincial rates.

The workplace target area will see the implementation of confidential support lines or employee and family assistance programs (E.A.P’s), especially within the small-business sector, Caron noted.

A self-guided change program also will help employees recognize their own strengths, as well as weigh the pros and cons of their alcohol and drug use.

S.A.P. will help seniors get active, and help provide increased awareness about the use and misuse of prescription drugs.

“Seniors who are physically active are less likely to depend on prescription medication,” Caron said.

First Nations will receive assistance through S.A.P. for the recruitment and training of volunteers to model healthy lifestyles.

“They have drug and alcohol strategies in place already. [S.A.P.] will help provide networking between the bands and their communities,” noted Caron.

Meanwhile, the attention focused on youths will be geared towards educating them in school, as well as those who are out of school and out of work.

The Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program, currently underway in area schools through the local OPP, is funded by S.A.P.

Caron said one of the major components of the youth program is a upcoming one-time session called “HEROES,” which is slated Dec. 10 in the Fort High gym.

The session will be presented by members of the SMARTRISK Foundation, a national non-profit injury-prevention organization based in Toronto.

“HEROES” is a huge theatrical production. Its equipment consists of 18 computer-controlled slide projectors, a 3.07m x 9.23m screen, sound system, scaffolding, draping, and powers cables.

It speaks to teenagers in their language, and offers strategies that are based in the real world where risk is a part of living.

“This is a presentation focused on giving teens choices. It is not about ‘don’t’ messages,” stressed Caron.

Four one-hour presentations are scheduled next Thursday, with two of them (8:55 a.m. and 2:10 p.m.) set aside strictly for high school students.

High school students from Atikokan, Rainy River, and the Sturgeon Creek Alternative School will be bused in for the “HEROES” program, with their counterparts from Fort High also attending.

“We had a couple of sponsors for ‘HEROES’ and they are making the [out-of-town] attendance happen,” said Caron, noting Gillons’ Insurance here and M&C Motors in Atikokan had chipped in to cover the transportation cost.

The other two sessions of “HEROES” (at 10:15 a.m. and 12:45 p.m.) are open to the public, and Caron is urging youths out of school to attend.

“I would like to see at least 100 youths attend those [sessions],” she said, noting several youth-based centres in the district such as IVIK, Young Star, probation offices, and alternative education have been advised about the “HEROES” program.

For more information on “HEROES” or the S.A.P. program, contact Caron at 274-2282.

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