Priorities report provides roadmap for drug strategy
In Haliburton County, top concerns of respondents to a community survey about substance use and the harm associated with drug and alcohol use were impaired driving, lack of resources and access to services, children and youth and crime and community safety.
The concerns are captured in the HKLN Community Priorities Report 2018, which includes results of the broad survey that involved more than 600 people in Haliburton County, the City of Kawartha Lakes and Northumberland County and was revealed by the Haliburton, Kawartha Lakes, Northumberland (HKLN) Drug Strategy on Sept. 25.
Respondents to the survey identified promoting community safety, improving strategies to deal with impaired driving, providing support to children and youth and creating more services and supports for those dealing with substance-use addiction as key local priorities.
“The roadmap is very timely because it provides a starting point for conversation on how the community might collectively respond to the harms associated with substance use, especially at a time when many of our communities are dealing with an unprecedented number of opioid-related overdoses and preparing for cannabis legalization happening [this month],” said Megan Deyman, the co-ordinator of the HKLN Drug Strategy, in a press release. To reduce harm associated with alcohol, drugs and the use of prescription medication not as prescribed, the drug strategy focuses on four main areas: harm reduction, prevention and education, treatment, and justice and enforcement.
The report released in September and presented to the public at the S.G Nesbitt Memorial Arena in Minden on Oct. 9 notes that alcohol, opioids and cannabis are the highest contributors to the cost of substance use in Canada, excluding tobacco, as identified by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction. The cost of substance use in Canada results in lost productivity, healthcare costs, criminal justice costs and other direct costs.
In HKPR, 56 per cent of individuals, both male and female, self-reported a rate of alcohol use that exceeded the low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines for injury and chronic disease.
Opioid use trends in HKPR showed in 2017 there was a peak of four emergency department visits in October, about 30 hospitalizations and at least 10 deaths related to opioids.
According to the Community Priorities Report 2018, regarding lifetime use, close to half (49.4 per cent) of HKPR residents aged 18 and older report having ever used any illicit drug in their lifetime. The report includes that according to the 2017 Ontario Student Drug Use and Health Survey almost 40 per cent of HKPR district Grade 9 to 12 students reported using any drug in the previous 12 months to get high.
In total, 548 surveys were taken: 51 per cent in the City of Kawartha Lakes, 29.7 per cent in Northumberland County, 15 per cent in Haliburton County and 4.2 per cent classified as other (Peterborough). Seventy-nine interviews and 62 follow-up surveys with service providers occurred.
“The strength of a regional drug strategy like ours is that it includes all aspects of substance use, and brings together many different groups, wearing many different hats, all seeking solutions,” said Catherine MacDonald, substances and harm reduction coordinator at the HKPR District Health Unit, who encouraged local residents to get involved by reading the full report online.
Locally, nearly 50 organizations are involved in the local drug strategy, including police services, fire departments, EMS personnel, health unit staff, community-based agencies, treatment services, pharmacists, family health teams, youth and social service agencies, mental health groups, and concerned individuals.
The local drug strategy is being funded through the Grow Grant from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, with the specific purpose of engaging small communities and diverse groups to improve community life.
For more information, visit www.hklndrugstrategy.ca.