Monday, January 14, 2013

Drug Prevention Network of Canada AGM

It was exciting to participate in the AGM of the Drug Prevention Network of Canada. David Berner, Executive Director sat beside Chuck Doucette, President of DPNC. Pacifica Treatment Centre, 1755 E. 11th Avenue, Vancouver, was the venue for the meeting.

The President's report reviewed the year of accomplishments, most recent of which was the organization of Recovery Day Vancouver organized in conjunction with Orchard Recovery Centre, Lorinda Strang, Executive Director. A proclamation for recovery was written by David Berner and signed by the Mayor of Vancouver. The DPNC blog was maintained and updated,( Dr. Colin Mangham and Jim Stimsen along with Chuck Ducette attended the Drug Prevention Group of America in Miami and DPNC joined the World Federaton against Drugs. Radio spots and interviews were held mostly with David Berner. A CNN producer from Atlanta is coming to do an interview. In the past DPNC has been in front of Parliamentary Committee and as an NGO has a place at the United Nations. The plan this year was to increase membership and that has certainly occurred.
 The Election of the Board of Directors followed with a call for nominations. Returning members included Al Arsenault, formerly of the Vancouver Police Department and founding member of Odd Squad Productions, Gwen Landault, graduate of Faculty of Law UBC, former crown prosecutor, private practice lawyer and executive member of the Real Women of Canada. Andy Bigras, national authority on drug issues and treasurer,  Jean Doucha, of Manitoba , executive director of the Canada's first and foremost therapeutic community for men, women, youth and dependent children. She participated in the meeting by conference call. New members included Dr. Colin Mangham, PHD researcher in Substance Abuse. Jim Stimson, Social Worker and President of Little House Society. I accepted nomination to the board.
The Year End Financial Report was reviewed and accepted. The Election of Chuck Doucette was supported unanimously. The business part of the meeting concluded. Coffee, cookies and muffins could then be attended to.

 David Berner lead the discussion that followed. Recovery Day BC was reviewed by Anne Marie who said that the turn out had been greater than 1500. The planning for next year is already begun for Sept 8, 2013. 9 and possibly 10 cities in Canada have joined with plans to also celebrate 2013 Recovery Day. A sign in asking people how many years of abstinence they had, turned up 1753 sobriety hours in a matter of hours just from those who came by that booth. The various recovery societies and treatment centres that had tables for the event showed the broad spectrum and cooperation of the various groups working for long term recovery. The success of recovery was repeated throughout the day with speakers and family bearing testimony to the miraculous change in lives. FOR - Friends and Family of Recovery, was joined by 40 members with plans to interact with Al Anon. The  Al Anon International Convention is occurring in Vancouver in July 5 to 7, 2013, with 5000 or more likely.

There was considerable concern expressed about the trend to exclude 'abstinence' by the so called 'harm reduction' movement. The Abstinence Model incorporates Harm Reduction. The World Health Organization position is that Harm Reduction is only valid as it leads to Abstinence. The concern locally especially with funding and some beaurocratic statements was that Harm Reduction was considered the goal of recovery, addicts being marginalized by second class care. It really was no different than denying proven cures for cancer and only funding places for cancer patients to die.  The tragedy of this position is it ignores all the scientific evidence regarding spontaneous remission and long term abstinence in 12 step programs. One skeptic actually admitted that the trend is that 'treatment is for the rich and harm reduction is for the poor'.   Indeed it sounds like well meaning euthansia.

John Volken, founder of a highly successful Welcome Home Addiction Recovery Academy, with programs in Vancouver, Seattle and more  spoke to the need to aim for permanent recovery and the need to address all drug addiction and it's sequellae, to make health the mandate for recovery and acknowledge that treatment isn't a matter of months. His thriving program is 2 years.

Lorinda spoke of the Detox service at Orchard and their work with private insurance and working members who began the lifelong process of recovery at the Orchard, their work with buprenorphine and benzodiazpepine tapers as the first step towards abstinence.  The Health Authorities were cutting funding and reducing the beds of Pacifica one of the finest and most successful abstinence treatment programs in the province. I've long referred patients to this program and been amazed by the success. Another commented that, Portage the 2nd oldest treatment program in Canada, with 40 years experience, originating in Quebec, is being micro managed by bureaucrats whose ignorance of recovery threatens to destroy what is likely the finest treatment program for youth and children. Fortunately a number of MLA's are aware of the exclusionary policies of the Public Policy Health Authorities and are ready to address how money is being spent so that all avenues of drug treatment including abstinence are supported. Some were concerned by those promoting drug use, kind of wolves in sheep's clothing talking a language with wholly different meaning. There was some concern about the misinformation about Insite and the strange reporting of what is clearly a 'sexy' if not old idea of giving drugs to drug addicts if only to marginalize them further. One couldn't help but think of  all the spend your way out of debt schemes that keep coming out.

When debate began about what was the best way to recovery Anne Marie encouraged everyone present to focus on our common ground and not our differences. A number of people spoke of their own long term abstinence and involvement in 12 step programs, or the success of family members in recovery. Author and therapist Candace Plattor emphasized the needs of loved ones. Tony Mayer a well regarded broadcaster spoke to the need for the concerns and ideas expressed at this meeting to become better known. Barb Rogers and Al spoke of recovery in the deepest sense, not just as stopping something but as what it gained. Sharon Werner, spoke about events and anti drug psychology. Barb from the Hannah House spoke about government bullying of the abstinence based programs, ironic given this governments claim to be anti bullying. Terry spoke of the success stories that have come out of the Pacifica program. David shared that John Volkens programs are spreading to Arizona and even Africa.

Chuck Doucette raised the issue of legalization of marijuana in response to the recent decision by Washington US. There was certainly consideration of the potential tax benefits but marijuana was surely a gateway drug from many, policing of young person use would be worse and the cost of the increasing numbers requiring health care was clearly not being considered with the already noted rise in schizophrenia costs associated with marijuana use.  Decriminalization seemed to be well accepted by all present, drug addiction being seen as a health problem not a matter of morality.

I enjoyed myself immensely being among so many people who had such a hopeful attitude to recovery especially those who shared the joy in their own lives having achieved abstinence being able to look back on the nightmares they'd experienced in addiction. Several spoke of the losses of friends and family members cut down young by drug addiction. David Berners optimism was a joy in itself. DPNC was such a breath of fresh air.  I'm looking forward to working more with these stirling folk in the coming year.


David Berner said...

Hi Dr. Bill,

What a kind and thorough accounting of our AGM. Many thanks.

We are blessed and thrilled that you are joining our mad little team of recovery enthusiasts.

Your own good work in the addictions field is testimony enough to where you heart lies.



haykind said...

Thanks David for your kind comments and all the really great work you continue to do and have done for years. I certainly admire your writing too. It gets a job done in places where work is what is wanted. The 'mad little team of recovery enthusiasts' is a lot of fun too. Good to stand among such fine folk.