Sioux Lookout Leads the Way to a Healthier Community
By Joanne Peacock, Health Educator, Northwestern Health Unit
Statistics show that people in Northwestern Ontario are more likely than in any other part of the province, to drink alcohol to excess, binge drink, smoke cigarettes and cannabis or use prescription opioids non-medically. In November 2011, the Northwestern Health Unit brought together mental health and substance abuse service providers, as well as other organizations and community members, together to explore and discuss the impact substance misuse has on their community with the guidance of HC Link consultant Cindee Richardson.
Thirty-five people attended the workshop and reflected on a ‘five-pillar model’ presented by Cindee. The five-pillar approach addresses housing, treatment, prevention, harm reduction, and enforcement. A four-pillar approach is a fairly common drug strategy approach in Canada, but as Cindee noted, “there is no recovery if there is no housing.” Cindee also stressed that “a multi sector approach involving local government is a tried and true model for community growth and success, but we need to start where people are at and build on this community’s numerous strengths.” Workshop participants agreed that a five-pillar approach reflected local needs and was a viable way to proceed.
By the end of the day our group had committed to make a presentation at the next municipal council meeting to seek municipal support in addressing the issues. We also set a date for our next meeting. Most importantly, we had enthusiastic participants who wanted to see changes in the community and wanted to work together to make those changes happen.
On an additional note, we had the pleasure of the company of seven members of Katimavik during our session and had the opportunity to receive input from the group on an anti-drug mural they were planning to paint for their drug and alcohol project.