A new strategy that aims to tackle issues related to substance abuse in the local area made its debut on Tuesday.
The Middlesex-London Community Drug and Alcohol Strategy presents 23 recommendations and nearly 100 associated actions, 59 of which are being prioritized over the next three years.
Rhonda Brittan serves as co-chair for the steering committee that led the effort to draw up the strategy. Brittan says she hopes to see their presented recommendations strike a cord with decision makers.
“Those are the people we want too listen… this isn’t a Middlesex-London issue, this isn’t an issue that the steering committee of the drug strategy is going to solve. This is something that we all have to be involved in,” Brittan.
Having everyone involved was an underlying theme in the 30-month process that lead to the creation of the strategy. More than 50 agencies representing social and health services, law enforcement, concerned individuals and those with lived experience all had a say.
Joe Antone, who served on the steering committee, is a member of Oneida Nation of the Thames.
Antone says he was happy to see Indigenous groups consulted, adding that it’s important to understand and address the intersectional issues Indigenous must face in light of substance abuse.
“An Indigenous person may be ready to make some changes, but because of their past experiences with racism in the health care [system], they may choose not to get treatment,” said Antone, adding that it is “critically important” for cultural safety to be at the forefront of the strategy’s actions and recommendations.
Tracy Law is the director of the London Area Network of Substance Users and helped provide a voice for those with lived experience during the drawing up phase of the strategy.
Law says she’s hopeful for how the strategy will play out, but remains cautious due to a need to fund a certain amount of actions.
“Even the [temporary] safe injection site’s in danger of losing its funding, which would be a shame,” said Law.
“We’ve saved 40 lives since it’s been open and it hasn’t even been open a year.”
While 59 of the strategy’s actions have been placed on high priority for the next three years, Brittan says there is no firm timeline on when these actions will be fulfilled, adding that some will happen immediately while others require a longer process.
Above all else, Brittan says its important that those looking to fulfill the strategy’s guidelines maintain a nimble mindset.
“The issues that are arising in our community – they change,” said Brittan.
“While we are focused on the recommendations and actions, we also need to be mindful that if something else comes up and we need to respond, we’re going to do that.”