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Addictions Research Centre has contributed to evidence-informed responses to costly issue

Addictions Research Centre has contributed to evidence-informed responses to costly issue

By Lucy Hume

Guest opinion

Correctional Services Canada’s decision to close the Addictions Research Centre (ARC) in Montague shocked many in the addictions field.  

Decisions to cut expenditures in an area of work are never easy, but sometimes necessary in challenging economic times. I get it.  

What I don’t get, however, are the remarks made by the Public Safety Minister’s spokeswoman, Julie Carmichael, suggesting that, “There is no evidence that this centre has provided any tangible results for taxpayer dollars.” (CBC news, June 28, 2012).  

Not only is this inaccurate, it seems pretty unethical to me!

Most of us are not surprised when politicians engage in mutual mudslinging (however distasteful it may be), but when it is directed at a group of committed professionals who are contributing to evidence–informed responses to one of the most costly and challenging social issues of our time, a line has been seriously crossed.  

As a former employee of the ARC, I can attest to the integrity of the research, program development and knowledge transfer that takes place under the scrutiny of national and international experts and certainly with the approval of senior management within CSC (including the minister’s office).  

For those who question the value of research and programming in substance abuse for the aboriginal population, the contribution of research related to fetal alcohol spectrum disorder (FASD), methadone as a safe and effective replacement for heroin, the unique needs of women with substance abuse programming, to name just a few of the priorities of the Addictions Research Centre over the years, please check the facts.  

The vast majority of crimes are rooted in drugs and alcohol and more than half of all offenders commit crimes while under the influence. If we don’t want a revolving door (and that’s a very expensive door on every level), then we have a responsibility to invest in changing behaviour. This commitment fundamentally (and I might add proudly) distinguishes the Canadian Correctional system from so many others . . . and it works. This fact has been demonstrated over and over again by research at the centre and around the world.

The Addictions Research Centre conferences and annual summer institutes drew professionals from across the country and across borders to hear about emerging best practices, leading edge research and unique opportunities to partner in service models across communities, locally, provincially and internationally.  Particularly rewarding was the opportunity for so many professionals in Atlantic Canada to attend as participants and presenters. If there is any doubt about the ongoing value of the work produced by the ARC over the past 11 years, there are many publicly available reports, publications and presentations available that prove otherwise.

Sadly, the ARC team cannot speak for themselves.  I only hope that those organizations and individuals who know better will do what they can to support them and set the record straight.

As for those who are still critical of the establishment of a world-class research facility in P.E.I., I hope others will counter with ‘why not in P.E.I.’ . . . why not create opportunities to reduce the brain drain in Atlantic Canada? And if you are still willing to dismiss the value of this work (and the people who do it) in favour of ‘lock them up and throw away the key’ thinking, please . . . ‘check the facts’.

Lucy Hume was an associate director at the ARC. She now lives and works in Toronto.

Organizations: Addictions Research Centre, Lucy HumeGuest opinionCorrectional Services Canada, CBC

Geographic location: Atlantic Canada, P.E.I., Toronto

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