Addiction and problem gambling are the issues addressed in the newest report from the United Way’s Social Research and Planning Council.
In addition to answering questions like what is addiction and who’s at risk, the report looks at how addictions can affect a community, identifies why it can be difficult for people to get help and gives direction to people looking for assistance.
“Addiction is seen as the end of the world, but it doesn’t have to be,” one of the council’s focus group participants is quoted in the report. “Addiction is not a life sentence. Change is possible. With the right help and support, we can turn our lives around.”
Expected to be available to the public within the next two months, the report contains a series of recommendations designed to improve addiction services in Perth and Huron counties.
According to council chair Lisa Wilde, the need for better addiction services was reflected in the “alarming statistics” researchers came across while working on the report.
Researchers found the rate of per-capita drug-related offenses in Stratford is significantly higher than other places in Ontario and slightly higher than the rest of the country.
Wilde notes Perth and Huron also have a high number of incidences of drunk driving and youth participating in binge drinking.
At the same time, the use of marijuana in Perth and Huron nearly doubled between 1996 and 2007, and is now the most commonly used illegal drug amongst students in Grades 7-12.
Among the report’s recommendations is for the Huron-Perth Mental Health and Addictions Network to work with the South West Local Health Integration Network to promote development and implementation of methadone clinics and support groups, as well as withdrawal management detox services – all of which are presently not available in the two counties.
The council would also like to see further education initiatives to raise awareness about addictions and treatment options, a needle exchange program in Huron County, and additional support for abused women with addiction problems.
“We often see that women who experience abuse have a series of other issues that they need to deal with as they move forward in their lives, addiction being one of them,” notes Wilde, who is also the executive director for the Emily Murphy Centre, a second-stage housing facility for abused women.
A division of the United Way of Perth-Huron, the Social Research and Planning Council is dedicated to the collection, analysis and distribution of information relating to local social trends and issues.
In addition to providing access to research reports created by local, regional, national and international agencies, the council identifies and commissions research into specific issues that affect the community.
Past reports from the council have looked at mental health, elder abuse, and the economic impact of the global recession.
The council also put out quality of life reports in 2004 and 2008, and Wilde says the council is looking at updating the report again soon.
The council just finished a report on transportation issues in Perth and Huron counties that is expected to be available as early as this week.