Community alliance tackling drug addiction

Gary Kean
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Lisa Bishop and Peter Jordan discuss their involvement with a community alliance against drug addiction during the CU Expo 2013 conference at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University of Newfoundland in Corner Brook on Thursday, June 13, 2013.

CORNER BROOK — Drug addiction is not just a problem for the person who is hooked. The entire community has a responsibility to take action to deal with the widespread impacts such a negative lifestyle can have.

That’s the impetus behind a community alliance based in St. John’s that is trying to not just talk about the issue, but take concrete steps towards helping people at risk of drug addiction.

Some members of that alliance talked about what they are doing during a panel discussion Thursday morning as part of the Community-University Expo 2013 happening at Grenfell Campus, Memorial University in Corner Brook this week.

The alliance was started by a group of people from the medical-health field who deal firsthand with young people addicted to drugs, or who are on the verge of becoming addicted. They reached out to every walk of life, including the post-secondary and grade school systems — and the community in general — to team up against the affliction.

“It’s a problem that affects society in general,” said Peter Jordan, a member of the community board. “What we’re trying to do is look at ways to address this right where it starts — where kids are initially introduced to it and those young people who are well into it and at risk of losing their lives.”

The project started about 18 months ago and, while it is still in the early stages, it is gaining momentum. Jordan said people are now coming to the board looking to volunteer.

“To me, that’s an indicator of how successful you are, when people actually start coming to get on the board, as opposed to having to go out and try to convince people,” said Jordan.

The success, he added, lies in finding ways to not just talk about the problem, but to actively figure out and implement solutions to get someone off drugs or keep them from starting in the first place.

“We have taken a leadership role in organizing community meetings and events to get this out to the people and to get the people themselves  — the parents and those directly affected — to try and guide us into ways to hopefully address this problem,” he said.


One-of-a-kind approach

Stephen Darcy, one of the physicians who founded the alliance, thinks this approach to fighting drug addiction may be one-of-a-kind.

“We may be doing something unique in terms of having the university, the community and the school system all working together,” he said. “That was a formal piece we had to do and is probably unique.”

Lisa Bishop, a pharmacist and another founder, said the problem is not limited to any one community and the plan is to create a sort of template for other communities across the country to also follow.

“We don’t want to label any one community as having a drug problem because this problem happens everywhere,” she said. “Every time we present and talk about our project, there is a lot of interest in what we’re doing.”

Presenting at the CU Expo 2013 in Corner Brook was another example of the reception the project has been getting.

“The session was very beneficial,” said Bishop of the discussion attended by about a dozen conference delegates. “We got a lot of feedback and suggestions on how to move our project forward.”

Organizations: Memorial University in Corner Brook

Geographic location: CORNER BROOK

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