Forum focuses on alcohol use
A 2011 study found that drinking rates among Southwestern Ontario teens were the highest in the province.
A 2015 study showed 40 per cent of adults in both Haldimand and Norfolk exceeded the “low-risk alcohol drinking guidelines” set by provincial and federal health authorities.
Such statistics caused the Haldimand-Norfolk Health Unit to gather its community partners to find out if alcohol is still an issue locally.
The message from people involved with emergency services, fire prevention, and addiction services is clear.
“When we brought all these people together they said, ‘guess what, it is’,” said Karin Marks of the health unit. “Alcohol addiction counselling is double some things like cocaine, marijuana.
“It’s a legal drug that has implications.”
With this information in mind, the health unit developed the community alcohol forum, which will take place Tuesday at the Jarvis Community Centre. The keynote speaker is Dr. Norman Giesbrecht, a highly qualified expert in addiction and mental health. Joining Giesbrecht on the bill is Jason LeMar of Public Health Ontario and community member Christopher Mussche, who has been directly affected by the dangers of alcohol. The afternoon portion of the forum will focus on community discussion and how everyone in attendance can make an impact.
“When we look at something like alcohol and the dangers it poses to our community it’s bigger than just public health,” said Michelle Lyne, a manager with the health unit. “We look at it from the health lens but when we bring in our partners we’re looking at it from all different lenses and we’re also taking a look at potential gaps in service in our community as well.”
Alcohol is the most widely consumed psychoactive drug. It’s been linked to over 200 diseases and conditions and therefore takes a major toll on the health care system. In 2011, alcohol consumption accounted for an estimated $1.7 billion in direct health care costs, about $3.6 billion in indirect costs.
Despite these numbers, the province has made alcohol more readily available, recently legalizing sales in places like grocery stores, spas and even hair salons.
“That has us really worried because research shows that increased access and availability leads to increased consumption,” said the health unit’s Lina Hassen.
Norfolk’s fire prevention officer Scott Pipe has seen first-hand the devastating effects that alcohol can have on a family.
“Your residence is viewed as a safe place to consume alcohol, but that’s now becoming one of the top contributing factors to fires in residential homes,” Pipe explained. “People have too much to drink and make bad decisions ... they’ll decide to cook, they’ll have too much to drink and fall asleep smoking.”
Pipe said incidents like these have forced departments across the country to change their public messaging tactics to focus not only on being smart on the road but at home as well.
Unfortunately, some folks still aren’t getting the message regarding drinking and driving.
“I can’t necessarily speak too much about police and EMS but we still respond to MVCs (motor vehicle collisions) and a lot of them are directly related to alcohol consumption,” Pipe added. “We’ve had fatalities over the past couple of months that have been related to alcohol consumption. It’s (all about) educating people to make better choices.”
The forum will run from 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m. at a cost of $10 (subsidies are available upon request).Pre-registration is required. For more info call Janet Schram at the health unit at 519-426-6170 or 905-318-6623 Ext. 3264 or email@example.com.