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Drug Policy To Be Debated At Symposium

  1. BlueMystic
    Author: Don Descoteau
    Wed, 31 May 2006
    Victoria News (CN BC)

    Steve McDougall remembers well having to be literally "scraped off the floor of a divy little apartment on Wark Street" before he could get on the road to recovery from heroin addiction.

    He considers himself lucky to have a caring family to help him stay on the road to recovery and place him in a long-term detox facility, but said many people don't have that luxury. The system in many cases, is failing them, he said.

    "The state of treatment - even the state of availability of detox - are pretty close to criminal," he said. "The fact that someone who wants to get clean has to wait three weeks to get a bed - so much can happen in three weeks."

    McDougall is a member of a new community coalition known as Voices of Substance. He'll be among the panelists taking part in a day-long symposium this Friday entitled The Costs of Doing Nothing: Looking Beyond our Current Approaches to Substance Use.

    Guest speakers from the health-care, police, business and sex-trade sectors will trade viewpoints with a selection of panelists from equally varied groups to get a sense of the current state of treatment and what direction could be taken to improve the situation.

    Standing still is not an option when it comes to helping substance abusers in Greater Victoria get healthy, McDougall said.

    "The whole thing about harm reduction is that you can't save a dead addict. You can't offer them recovery," he said.

    McDougall said from his perspective, having healthy choices available for addicted individuals is the key to healing. A problem in past has been a "misdirection of resources," with not enough emphasis on working with addicted individuals to find out what they need.

    "So much money would be saved by putting people through treatment rather than putting them in jail," he said. "I don't think I would have had a chance at recovery had I not been in a treatment place that was longer than 28 days."

    Voices of Substance member Connie Carter, a University of Victoria doctoral candidate and former administrator for addictions research, said the goal of the seminar is to spark dialogue.

    "We can't develop social policy without input from the people who will be affected by that social policy," she said. "I'm hoping we can all come together and see each other's perspectives in a new light. Education can change people."

    The symposium runs from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Ambrosia Catering and Events Centre, 638 Fisgard St. For more information, call 361-050 or go to http://www.voicesofsubstance.ca


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