Thursday, October 29, 2009

Podunk Below the Masthead, October 29, 2009

A closing addictions centre in Terrace raises questions about the provinces dedication to substance abuse issues, H1N1 arrives at a local school and winter driving conditions leave one dead in a highway fatality west of Terrace, some of the items of note for Thursday.

Daily News, Front page, headline story
CLOSEST YOUTH ADDICTIONS SHELTER CLOSING IN DECEMBER-- Northern Health's plans to close the Atlas Youth Addiction treatment facility have raised the ire of Gary Coons, the NDP MLA for the North Coast. He has spoken out about the closure, which came about as a result of cutbacks ordered by Northern Health in the Terrace area With the doors closing, some 650,000 dollars will be saved in the Northern Health budget for the Terrace area, but Coons and former Health Advisory Council member Tony Briglio wonder, if it is not indicative of a lack of dedication to the goal of solving substance abuse issues in the province.

Northern Health and School District 52 have confirmed the first reported case of the H1N1 virus in the city's schools, as we outlined on the blog yesterday, the School District has sent home letters to the parents of district schools updating the situation and offering advice on the course of action to follow in the home.

The Third Avenue Market may be on the move next season, that is if City Council agrees with the Salmonberry Trading Company society and its desire to relocate the cruise ship season market to either the courthouse area or Mariner's Park.

A brief notice from the RCMP was printed in the Thursday edition of the paper, outlining the background of the body found at the waterfront on Wednesday, advising that foul play did not result in the death of the male discovered at the Lightering Dock near Kwinitsa station. The paper advised that they would not be publishing any names out of respect for the family's privacy and asked that locals not phone them for that information.

The Sports page featured a review of the weekends PRMBA mid season tournament as well as a look at the Archery scene in the city.

(Daily News Archive Articles for October 29 )

The Northern View
More details on body found in Prince Rupert-- An update on the latest information released by the Prince Rupert RCMP regarding the body discovered at the Prince Rupert waterfront on Wednesday afternoon (see article here)

CFTK TV 7 News
Single Vehicle Crash Near Terrace Claims Life-- Winter like driving conditions along Highway 16 resulted in a traffic fatality just west of Terrace on Thursday morning, causing the RCMP to remind drivers to have their cars equipped for the weather and to drive to the conditions of the day. (see article here)

CBC News British Columbia, Daybreak North
Kitimat Closure-- details on the closure of the Eurocan pulp mill in Kitimat, as Dennis Claire, General Manager for West Fraser's Eurocan operation and Mayor Joanne Monaghan offer some insight and background on the news delivered yesterday by West Fraser timber (listen to interview here)

CBC News British Columbia, Daybreak North
Schools versus Olympics-- Barry Pankhurst, Chair of Coast Mountain School District No. 82 discusses the challenges that his school District faces thanks to funding cuts and the impact that the Olympics may have played in those cuts (listen to interview here)

Daily News, Front page, headline story
Closest youth addictions shelter closing in December
By George T. Baker
The Daily News
Thursday, October 29, 2009

A plan by Northern Health to end the Atlas Youth Addiction treatment facility in Terrace has drawn the ire of local health advocates and North Coast MLA Gary Coons.

Atlas has served youth in the northwest region as the only youth addiction centre with six beds and is scheduled to close on December 31. Terrace Services Society has been operating it, but the contract was cancelled thee weeks ago.

The move was made to save $650,000, but Coons wondered what the long-term costs would be to not having a service close to home.

“They have cut the number of youth treatment beds in half in the north,” said Coons. “There were seven in Prince George and this had six.”

In the last five years, 475 young addicts have used the service and for some time it was not only limited to youth in the Northwest, but was made available to the entire

NH was ordered by the provincial Health Ministry to cut $14 million from its budget for next year. In response, the authority is cutting $1 million to its mental health budget, and the cutting of this facility will clear more than half of that budget decrease in one swoop.

“Any of these kids wanting or needing help, have to go to Prince George now,” said Coons. “We won’t even have it in our region. If your son and daughters are having difficulty they now have to go to Prince George. And we see what happens when we put people on the bus - they don’t get there.”

People looking for treatment in Prince Rupert are often asked to ride with the Northern Health bus service or take a Greyhound for the eight-hour drive to Prince George. Advocates have long argued that the distance between both communities is too long to help those who need help immediately.

One of those advocates is Tony Briglio, who once sat on the Local Health Advisory Council until it was disbanded by City Council earlier this year. Briglio said that the cancellation of this service makes him wonder if the provincial ministry or NH were committed at all to dealing with substance abuse problems in the province.

“The closing of this facility is a demonstration that they do not view addictions as a priority, but it is a priority number one for us,” said Briglio.

The communities of Lax Kwa’laams, Hartley Bay, Kitkatla, Metlakatla, Port Edward and Prince Rupert have all highlighted addiction services and treatment as their highest priority in their community-to-community deliberations.

According to a Health Canada report in 2005, the mean age for first time alcohol use is 10 years old, binge drinking 12-years old and most drugs 13-years old.

Briglio had been working on the community-to-community forum with First Nations partners in developing some sort of game plan for an addiction treatment facility for the North Coast until Briglio was defeated in last November’s municipal elections.

Consultation with NH representatives with Northern communities has consistently pointed to the need to have mental health and addictions services closer to home, which was echoed in a press release by NH.

In that release, NH CEO Cathy Ulrich said that the authority has been told this and added that the Nechako Treatment Centre in Prince George would offer that close to home program.

“We get a lot of rhetoric, we get the “make-do” stuff in that we’ll just make-do, but it’s not enough,’ chastised Briglio. “If we thought that Terrace was too far away, then where do we go now? If the beds are too full in Prince George do they go to Vancouver?”

Northern Health isn’t the only health authority making cuts in mental health services to save money.

The Vancouver Island Health Authority announced last week that it is reducing the number of caseworkers and hospital beds for the mentally ill, among other cuts designed to trim $45 million from this year’s budget.

That decision caused Victoria Police chief Jamie Graham to warn his officers that they will see more people in crisis on Victoria streets and they will be asked to do more as other agencies are cut back.

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