Forums tackle drugs, death

No matter the cause or the reason, overdoses and suicides take a heavy toll on a community.

As the opioid crisis continues to rip communities apart the Vernon and District Branch of the Canadian Mental Health Association has partnered with local organizations, physicians and community leaders to combat the crisis that has devastated so many families. 

“Youth Community Dialogues for Armstrong, Lumby and Vernon is an early intervention and prevention project for youth to address substance use, mental health promotion and suicide prevention,” said Julia Payson, executive director of CMHA Vernon and District. “The goal of this intervention is to change the way individuals and service providers respond to community education, public policy advocacy and stigma as a barrier to services.”

Statistics show addictions are one of the most dangerous and destructive issues facing youth today, with reports stating 85 per cent of Canadian teenagers have consumed alcohol and 50 per cent have consumed illegal drugs.

The most at-risk to develop addictions are youth under the age of 25.

“The community-centred nature of the forums will address topics that are of the greatest concern in our region for vulnerable youth populations,” said Payson. “Each panel will include parents, community leaders and relevant stakeholders, with forums open to the entire community.”

Payson said raising families in smaller, close-knit communities may lead people to believe youth will be sheltered from some of the negative influences of big-city life.

“Unfortunately, rural youth are often at an increased risk as their communities often struggle due, not to a lack of caring, but because of a lack of resources,” she said.

“Through early intervention and prevention, we can empower our youth with knowledge, resilience and the support and resources needed to make healthy life choices and be a positive influence on their peers,” said Payson. 

CMHA Vernon partnered with more than 10 local groups to establish the forums.

Each forum in Armstrong, Lumby and Vernon will feature resources available for youth, parents and caregivers in the community, free naloxone training provided by Interior Health and a light dinner and refreshments.

The first forum takes place in Vernon on Jan. 23 at the Marie Fleming Theatre in the Vernon & District Performing Arts Centre.

The Armstrong forum will be held at the Centennial Hall on Feb. 12 and the Lumby forum will take place at the Whitevalley Community Centre on March 12.

Each forum runs from 5:30-8 p.m.

To register or for additional information, contact Naaz Grewal at 250-542-3114 ext. 226, or email [email protected].

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