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Community rallies against addictions

Dez Loreen and Derek Neary
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Nov 21/05) - Leaders around the North are rallying against drug and alcohol abuse in their communities as yesterday marked the beginning of National Addictions Awareness Week.

Staff Sgt. Sid Gray of the Inuvik RCMP Detachment stands clear on his message about drugs. He believes that it's up to the communities to rally support against drug abuse in their lives. - Dez Loreen/NNSL photo

"Abusing drugs is a choice people are making," said Aklavik Mayor Billy Archie.

"As a community, we need to speak up against abuse in any form."

In his community, people have educated their youth about the dangers of addictions with the help of local authorities, he said.

"The DARE program is in place, and it seems to be doing a great job with our kids."

In Tuktoyaktuk, Mayor Jackie Jacobson knows the key to keeping people sober is keeping them active.

"When people get bored, they tend to drink," said Jacobson.

"There are events like crib tournaments and youth activities as well as leaders, we cannot let them go the route of addiction."

Once someone is lured into the grip of booze, drugs, gambling, tobacco or some other addiction, it often falls to friends or family to get that individual to the professional help they need to break their cycle of abuse. Today there is far more support available than in the past.

In the Deh Cho, for example, over the past year the regional arm of Health and Social Services has broadened its staff to include a clinical supervisor, four mental health counsellors and four community wellness workers.

The extra positions were created based on recommendations from a department report entitled A State of Emergency, said Ethel Lamothe, manager of community wellness and addictions for the Deh Cho.

The number of clients seeking counselling has risen, although a database to officially track numbers is still in the works, Lamothe noted.

Some clients come in on their own, others seek treatment based on referrals from nurses, social workers, justice officials or friends and family.

The mental health and addictions workers are based in Fort Providence, Fort Liard, Fort Simpson and on the Hay River Reserve.

For Kathy Szirtes, regional clinical supervisor who started working in the Deh Cho in August.

Having people show up to hear what counselling is all about is the critical first step to recovery. Once they learn that there's hope, they often want help, said Szirtes.

Encouraged by the messages coming out around the North, Sgt. Sid Gray of the Inuvik RCMP detachment, insists life is what you make it.

"It comes down to lifestyle choices. Do you need drugs and alcohol in your life?" he said.

"It all starts with the adults and parents."

People need to go beyond setting a good example, however, and residents must take an active role in keeping drug dealers and bootleggers out of their communities, he said.

"If you ever want these people gone, please do something about it," he said.

The RCMP are always interested in tips and information from community members about who is doing what.

"Come see us, and tell us what you know about suspected dealers," said Gray.

For a special report on the battle against addictions, the help available, as well as a list of events marking this week around the territories, please turn to page B1.