Councillor calls for drug abuse focus group

A Prince Albert city councillor wants to see a municipal focus group set up to find solutions to problems rising from drug use.

On Monday, Ward 6 Coun. Blake Edwards asked for a report on creating such a group, which would “discuss how drugs are impacting the City of Prince Albert, and find solutions to reduce the problems that arise from these drugs.”

Edwards said he’s already talked to a number of citizens and community groups about the project. They told him such a group would be a welcome addition.

“I’m hoping with this group that we can bring in a number of parties, coordinated by city council, in order to ensure possible policy changes,” he told council.

If implemented, Edwards wants the focus group to include representatives from the Prince Albert Police Service, the Prince Albert Grand Council, and Prince Albert Community Mobilization’s Hub and COR project, and local youth.

He said the focus group could lobby other levels of government for much needed changes, like an increase in the number of treatment and rehabilitation options.

“Substance abuse is a problem,” he said. “I’m hoping that this focus group … can help deal with some of these problems.”

In addition to the lack of treatment centres, Edwards is also concerned with crystal meth use in the city. He said crystal meth users are responsible for large amounts of property crime in the city

No final date was set for when the report will be submitted to council.

According to Statistics Canada, Prince Albert police reported 46 cases of possession of crystal meth last year. That’s nearly twice as many as in 2015. Marijuana and cocaine possession cases were also up by 23 per cent and 55 per cent respectively. Prince Albert was one of the few municipalities in Canada that saw a year-over-year increase in reported drug crimes.

Studies have also shown that youth in Prince Albert tend to be trying drugs and alcohol at an earlier age than their national counterparts. In 2016, the Journal of Community Safety and Well-being released a report noting that roughly 30 per cent of Prince Albert youth started using alcohol at ages 12 or younger. That’s double the national rate of 15.5 per cent. The study showed similar trends for marijuana and illicit substances.

The report suggested expanding and generating added funding for current youth outreach programs, and putting together a collaborative at-risk youth action plan.