City council considers next step in alcohol, drug strategy

Tackling addiction in Red Deer will be a big task, admits Kath Hoffman, co-chair of the Central Alberta Addictions Consortium.

Tackling addiction in Red Deer will be a big task, admits Kath Hoffman, co-chair of the Central Alberta Addictions Consortium.

But she points to the community’s response to homelessness as proof of what can be done when the community comes together.

Hoffman told city council on Monday night that she wants to see addiction, and strategies to deal with it, become as much a part of the local conversation as homelessness became.

To that end, a Red Deer Alcohol and Drug Strategy has been developed to provide the road map for dealing with addiction, an issue that is as complex as its effects are far reaching.

The 52-page strategy report explains the local initiative is built on four pillars: prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement practices. The approach has been adopted successfully in many European countries and other Canadian communities.

Many of the recommendations to council called on improving approaches already in place and creating better access to help and treatment and more co-ordination among agencies dealing with addiction-related issues.

Hoffman said the strategy provided a “snapshot” of the current state of affairs in the community while shining a spotlight on areas for improvement. The initiative will also provide an opportunity to provide the community with the latest research on addiction; why some drug or alcohol users become addicts and others don’t.

The community is also expected to play a big role in coming forward with recommendations to tackle addictions issues.

Among suggestions is creating a so-called “drug court,” which specializes in ways to deal with more minor drug offences by means other than jail sentences or no-drinking or drug-taking probation orders that are impractical when dealing with addicts.

Council members expressed their support for more community consultation to provide a clearer role for city hall in the strategy.

They opted to table the strategy for a month to provide time to further consider the next step.

In other council news:

lCouncil unanimously endorses an updated Kin Kanyon Concept Plan that drops a proposed spray park among other changes. The plan proposed replacing the existing spray rock with a picnic area when the rock has reached the end of its life span in the next five to 10 years.

Councillors weren’t so sure they wanted to see the end of water features in the park and asked that something similar be considered along with other options when the spray rock is removed.

lCity administration will talk to the RCMP to see if they support the opening of a collision centre in Red Deer. Successful in Lethbridge and Medicine Hat — which have municipal police forces — the centres are places to report minor accidents without tying up police officers.

RCMP’s K-Division has not been in favour of collision centres previously.

pcowley@bprda.wpengine.com

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