Kanata group wants to launch on-de­mand treat­ment for drug abuse

Ottawa Citizen - - CITY - JOANNE LAUCIUS

A par­ent group that drew at­ten­tion to an epi­demic of opi­oid abuse in Ottawa’s west end last win­ter says it has no choice but to go around of­fi­cial chan­nels to launch a treat­ment and pre­ven­tion pro­gram for drug-ad­dicted youth.

In a pub­lic meet­ing held Thurs­day in Kanata, We the Par­ents, headed by ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor Sean O’Leary, out­lined plans to raise money for a pi­lot project to pro­vide treat­ment for sub­stance abuse and opi­oid abuse dis­or­der.

The group’s orig­i­nal plan called for $372,500 a year for a min­i­mum of two years for a pi­lot project based on the SMART Re­cov­ery pro­gram, which of­fers sup­port groups for ad­dic­tion re­cov­ery.

A re­vised plan re­leased Thurs­day scaled that fig­ure down to just un­der $290,000 an­nu­ally, of which 55 per cent is ear­marked for staff salaries.

Speak­ers at Thurs­day’s meet­ing in­cluded O’Leary, KanataCar­leton MP Karen McCrim­mon, for­mer Ottawa po­lice chief and cur­rent sen­a­tor Vern White and one-time B.C. health min­is­ter Dr. Terry Lake, while Ne­pean-Car­leton MPP Lisa Ma­cLeod was also sched­uled to ad­dress the roughly 75 peo­ple who at­tended.

White, speak­ing at length about the need to ad­dress the drug ad­dic­tion prob­lem on mul­ti­ple fronts, in­clud­ing in­creased treat­ment and ed­u­ca­tion, and tougher crim­i­nal sen­tences for man­u­fac­tur­ers of il­le­gal drugs and deal­ers, as well as stronger con­trols at Canada Bor­der Ser­vices Agency, was very well re­ceived.

“When you can’t get treat­ment in days or weeks, but months, that’s not good enough,” he said, re­fer­ring to wait times at Ottawa’s only two res­i­den­tial drug treat­ment cen­tres.

“We’re go­ing to see thou­sands of deaths, and we don’t have a plan. We don’t have a na­tional drug strat­egy to­day that deals with this is­sue to­day. We don’t have a pro­vin­cial drug strat­egy to­day that deals with this is­sue to­day. To be hon­est, we still have a pop-up tent down­town — we don’t have a mu­nic­i­pal strat­egy to­day to deal with this to­day. We need to do some­thing to­day.”

Lake, mean­while, drew cat­calls from the crowd when he coun­tered some of White’s ideas and sug­gested the prob­lem was a health is­sue, not an en­force­ment one, and rec­om­mended safe con­sump­tion and harm re­duc­tion sites as nec­es­sary parts of the so­lu­tion.

“How long have we had a war on drugs in North Amer­ica?” he asked. “For­ever. And how suc­cess­ful has it been? Not at all. If you want to take the law-and-or­der ap­proach to this, I guar­an­tee it won’t work.”

Thurs­day’s meet­ing was also at times a heated one. One at­tendee, An­dreas Ho­ef­fener, an ad­dic­tion coun­sel­lor who said he favours hav­ing ad­dicts com­mit­ted to treat­ment, was shouted down by oth­ers, in­clud­ing O’Leary, when he sug­gested that only 20 per cent of ad­dicts ac­tively want treat­ment, while the other 80 per cent would pre­fer to be left alone.

O’Leary asked Ho­ef­fener to leave, say­ing he didn’t want to hear any num­bers from Over­dose Pre­ven­tion Ottawa, the group that has opened pop-up in­jec­tion sites.

A man film­ing the meet­ing yelled at Ho­ef­fener to sit down and be quiet, not­ing it was O’Leary’s event, not his.

“I thought this was a pub­lic fo­rum,” Ho­ef­fener said.

O’Leary founded We the Par­ents af­ter re­leas­ing an open let­ter last Fe­bru­ary ex­press­ing his frus­tra­tion in get­ting help for his 16-year-old daugh­ter Paige, who had strug­gled with ad­dic­tion for about 20 months.

A pub­lic meet­ing on coun­ter­feit drugs drew al­most 200 par­ents. The group now has 300 mem­bers, but the frus­tra­tion in get­ting treat­ment for youth re­mains, said O’Leary.

Last March, On­tario Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne said Ottawa’s plan to deal with the opi­oid cri­sis is a model for the rest of the prov­ince and the On­tario gov­ern­ment is ready to fund it with $2.5 mil­lion.

O’Leary says a num­ber of harm re­duc­tion pro­grams have been an­nounced, but there are still few detox op­tions for teens.

“It’s seven months later. Our city has no detox for kids 16 and younger,” he said.


Sen. Vern White ad­dresses a meet­ing at the Kanata Rec Cen­tre or­ga­nized by We the Par­ents, a lo­cal group.


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