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Caring communities can help reduce substance abuse
The use of substances affects every community in Canada. Substance use puts people at risk of disease and accidental overdose death. In 2009, the BC Interior had the second highest rate of injuries and overdoses attributed to illicit drugs (47.6 per 100,000 residents). These and other risks from drug use also negatively affect families and communities.
It is significant that 96 per cent of British Columbians agree that drug and alcohol addiction is an important public health issue and 78 per cent of randomly surveyed BC residents supported harm reduction activities, such as needle exchanges, in their communities.
On Tuesday, Oct. 23 join the Creating Caring Communities Committee for a coffee house-style forum to discuss your thoughts on how to reduce the harms of substance use in Grand Forks. This free, public event will be held at the Grand Forks Secondary School Multi-purpose Room from 4 to 7 p.m.
Members of the Committee include staff from Interior Health, ANKORS, Community Services, Selkirk College, Freedom Quest, the RCMP and other community members. This gathering is an opportunity to have resident’s voices heard, to learn from others and to contribute ideas about how to promote and support a healthier community.
The high level of support for harm reduction services is very promising and indicates a growing understanding of the benefits of an approach that emphasizes public health, human rights and social justice.
Harm reduction is a pragmatic response that focuses on keeping people safe by minimizing death, disease and injury associated with high risk behaviour. Harm reduction makes sense because it is evidence based and it benefits the community as well as the individual.
Research shows harm reduction activities can have a number of positive effects including reducing HIV infection, hepatitis, overdose deaths and other early deaths among people who use substances. In addition, there is less injection substance use and fewer used needles left in public places.
Education has a large role in the harm reduction approach. This includes education about safer injecting, reducing injecting frequency, and improving sexual health through safer sex, including condom use. Other positive effects include increased referrals to treatment programs, health and social services, as well as a reduction in crime. There is also increased employment among people who use harm reduction services as people become empowered to improve the quality of their lives.
All are welcome to join Creating Caring Communities members in what will be a lively and informal conversation that will hopefully lead to a safer and healthier community for everyone.