Wednesday July 09, 2014

Task force targets rising meth use

Rotary Club hopes to create program similar to one in Maple Ridge

Convinced there is rampant crystal methamphetamine abuse in the city, Kamloops Daybreak Rotary Club plans to establish a community task force after holding a public forum on Monday.

The club was approached by Kamloops RCMP based on the results of a Rotarian-led task force in Maple Ridge that has met with success since it was founded a decade ago. Other B.C. cities have followed that model.

Sandra Blair, a Daybreak Rotary member, said there is a sense that crystal meth use here has reached epidemic levels.

“They figure, on the street, it’s the drug of choice,” Blair said.

It’s also one of the most addictive and destructive substances anywhere, and youth and homeless people are particularly vulnerable.

“That’s what I find quite shocking,” said Blair, who has learned a lot since she took on the project. “I didn’t realize how horrible the drug is.”

RCMP agree that crystal meth is a growing problem, but wouldn’t call it an epidemic, said Cpl. Cheryl Bush.

“We are certainly seeing more of it through our dealings with people and our (drug) seizures,” said Bush.

Meth is a cheap drug and highly addictive, hence its popularity, she said. The use of crystal meth and other drugs is directly linked to vehicle break-ins and other property crime.

“They are constantly trying to get their fixes and breaking into vehicles and such,” she said, adding Mounties are happy to partner with Rotary and take a proactive approach to this problem.

ASK Wellness executive director Bob Hughes said crystal meth has been part of the street-drug culture in Kamloops for about 10 years, but has yet to infiltrate the general drug population. Most users are in their 20s and 30s.

“It really has not got to an epidemic level,” he said.

Hughes commends Rotary for stepping up and keeping the drug in the public consciousness. He said he hopes the task force can prevent people from trying meth and support those who want to kick the habit.

“I think it’s good to highlight the fact it hasn’t gone away,” he said.

The club is hoping to attract an array of concerned community representatives to Monday’s information session, including police, social service agencies, service providers, educators, businesses, all levels of government and affected family members.

Mary Robson, who led the Maple Ridge initiative, will be guest speaker at the session, which starts at 7 p.m. in the TRU Alumni Theatre.

“A lot of people are wanting information and she has a good knowledge of the subject,” Blair said.

Daybreak Rotary already has a three-month plan to launch the task force and may hold an additional forum in the new year.

The task force would be based on three pillars:

P Education: To stop the spread of drug abuse by educating and actively engaging youth, as well as the community as a whole, about crystal meth.

P Enforcement: To combat and ultimately stop the manufacture and distribution of the drug.

P Treatment: To rally community resources in order to treat every meth addict with dignity and develop a plan leading to a healthier lifestyle.

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