Addictions report delays strategy for another day

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Treatment options get some attention but enforcement, education fall short

Richard Wedge, left, Health P.E.I., Minister Doug Currie, and Dr. Rhonda Matters, clinical psychologist, presented the review of mental health and additions services and supports in Prince Edward Island at the Murchison Centre Friday.

A long-awaited report on addictions and mental health turned out to be a short-term strategy and certainly underwhelming in its scope. There were positive programs in the report first promised by Health Minister Doug Currie last April, but those are stop-gap solutions to a growing problem, especially among younger Islanders. The expected long-term strategy has been placed in the hands of a specialist and could be more than a year away.

The provincial government is taking the issue seriously, committing $1.2 million in new initiatives to deal with prescription drug addiction in the province and address gaps in coverage identified by Islanders.

The report deals with treatment options but fails to look at enforcement and education. Those will be left to a report from Dr. Rhonda Matters, the province’s new chief mental health and addictions officer. She will co-ordinate a province-wide strategy to help in the co-ordination and integration of services to make it easier for clients to get the services that they need.

Some immediate measures announced last week will help deal with the epidemic of opiate addiction in this province.

A new 10-bed transition unit will be established at the provincial addictions facility in Mount Herbert for those who have completed detox but require additional support before returning home, while the province will also open a new centrally located methadone clinic in an effort to reduce the existing waiting list for methadone treatment.

The site for the methadone clinic was not announced, possibly at the now-vacated Prince Edward Home, at least in the short term.

It was interesting to see an inspector will be hired to monitor the prescribing of opiates by Island doctors and the Department of Health will work with doctors to increase education regarding the prescribing of highly addictive opiates.

Last week’s report is a start in the right direction but it left much work remaining for Dr. Matters to address.


Welcome back, Jack


Children and parents throughout the Maritime must be elated with news this week that the Jack Frost Children’s Festival is returning to Charlottetown in 2014.

A year ago, the city was frantically trying to save the festival and those attempts failed when a potential private partner walked away, forcing the cancellation of the popular event.

For the previous eight years, the festival was run by Tourism Charlottetown but that group got out of the event business last year and no one else came forward. Charlottetown Mayor Clifford Lee said the city was in no position financially to take it over and so he pulled the plug.

The festival did a great job filling hotels in Charlottetown and surrounding areas, restaurants were busy and it resulted in a lot of activity and economic benefit for the Charlottetown area. In 2012, more than 14,000 people attended, 62 per cent of them from outside the province.

The economic impact, based on reports from previous festivals, has ranged anywhere from $1 million to $3 million to the economy

For this coming February, the Confederation Bridge has stepped forward to handle the logistical and financial management of the event although final details have yet to be finalized.

Bridge officials, who are trying to firm up additional sponsors for a budget which is close to $500,000, deserve credit for stepping up, showing their civic pride and taking on this project.

It may appear the Jack Frost is a little late getting onto the events schedule but the festival does have a positive recognition and attracts people who don’t usually head south.

The Jack Frost has always delivered in the past as a fun event for the whole family and that shouldn’t change for this coming February.

Organizations: Department of Health

Geographic location: Charlottetown, Mount Herbert

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