Drug prevention effort lives on

Duane Hicks

The Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team (SAPT) will continue here thanks to funding through the Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.
The district OPP detachment announced yesterday afternoon that the Fort Frances Police Services Board has received $99,846.31 to help sustain the program.
“There was a great concern that the funding was done,” SAPT co-ordinator Hugh Dennis admitted yesterday.
“Then [the] Fort Frances Police Services Board sponsored a grant proposal and the ‘Proceeds of Crime’ grant came through,” he noted.
Dennis explained the funding is a little different than in the past, with one-third of it covering his part-time position.
The other two-thirds is for equipment, such as SIDNE—a battery-powered vehicle that simulates the effects of distracted and impairment from alcohol and other drugs on a motorist’s driving ability.
For the past 11 years, the SAPT had been working together as one of the province’s 22 FOCUS community projects, with programs working to prevent injury and reduce harm as it relates to alcohol and other drug use, as well as raising awareness of substance misuse as a risk factor in chronic disease.
But on March 31, provincial funding was scheduled to end for the local program.
The OPP recognized the significance of the program here in Rainy River District and helped to mobilize various partners, including the SAPT, Fort Frances Police Services Board, and Rainy River District Safe Communities.
Together, they collaborated to find funding to continue SAPT, which includes all municipalities and First Nations’ communities, and were successful.
Dennis said he was pleased to see SAPT continue after what has been built up over the years, especially when the need for substance abuse prevention continues.
“I can tell you there’s a great interest in the presentations and the work to raise awareness and provide an educational component for the community, particularly the youth and their parents,” he remarked.
“That’s who we’re focusing on big time.
“I am very, very happy to see it continue, albeit on a smaller scale,” added Dennis. “It’s very, very fulfilling work, and needed work.
“And working with the young people is tremendous. There’s no other way to describe it,” he noted.
“They are very engaged, very communication-savvy.
“Hopefully, we can take the message to them in their medium, and work with videos and so forth.”
Dennis said he’s been showing videos that were produced before to students in Grades 4-7 in the last month or so, noting the young people “are mesmerized by their peers speaking to them about making the right choices.”
“To have the young people mesmerized by older yet still young people giving them a positive message is just fabulous,” he enthused.
The recently-announced funding will allow community partners to continue enhancing the SAPT awareness campaign, with a priority set on building skills within youth to support them in making healthy and safe choices in respect to drugs and alcohol, the OPP reported.
The funding will support Dennis as a part-time co-ordinator as well as help establish a functional resource centre for mentoring youth.
Team members will have the ability to develop social networking resources and remain accessible to the Rainy River District through the www.preventingtragedy.com website.
As in the past, the SAPT will continue to network throughout the district and North America regarding substance misuse trends, collect statistical information, and help develop new resources to support youth, families, and older adults.
It also is planning to use funding to purchase much-needed equipment to enhance local programs such as Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) and the Preventing Alcohol Related Trauma in Youth Program (P.A.R.T.Y.)
Some of the equipment includes computers, presentation equipment, furniture for a resource centre, and training tools like SIDNE.
A new component to the SAPT program was the ability to support the OPP Northwest Region’s Youth Summer Camp that took place Aug. 9-13 at Longbow Lake.
Students from throughout the region, including seven from Rainy River District, attended the camp with police officers.
The purpose of the camp was to give children opportunities to develop leadership skills, youth empowerment, mentoring, and self-esteem.
As a result of its success, the camp will continue, with Sunny Cove Camp here to be the site next year.