New college program to tackle social ills

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January 15, 2015 9:09 AM

Tackling the issue with lack of mental health workers the goal of Reeves program

A new college program may be what Lloydminster needs to help curb problems with drugs and alcohol addiction in the Border City.

Admissions are now open for a new addictions and community services worker program at the Reeves College Lloydminster campus. The 44-week program includes a field placement portion where students can get hands-on experience working with those in need.

Reeves College admissions representative Kerry Graves says there is a ‘huge’ interest in this line of work in Lloydminster.

“In this town there’s been a higher increase of more bigger city issues coming here,” she said, referring to drug trafficking and addiction. “You name it, they’re all its starting here. I’ve lived her for 25 years and this is the worst it’s ever been.”

Graves says that four people have applied to the program so far, with an enrollment cap set at 15 students. She hopes the college is able to attract at least six applicants.

“Otherwise we have to postpone the course until we have enough students to start it,” she said.

The Thorpe Recovery Centre, located just outside of town, is the type of treatment centre Graves says students might spend their co-op placement.

“I really didn’t know they were doing that,” said Pat Henry of the Thorpe Centre after hearing about the new program at Reeves. “I think that’s a really good thing.”

She says she has seen the need for addictions and mental health workers increase in Canada.

“My impression is demand far outweighs what we have to be able to satisfy the people who are in need,” Henry said. “There’s far more demand for it than we have trained counsellors in order to deal with it, and I think the more training you have as a counsellor, the better off you can serve the community.”

Henry says that as more jobs bring more money to Lloydminster, illegal drugs become more accessible. But she says problems with addiction don’t stop on the street corner.

“Also, living where we do with Baby Boomers, there’s a lot of prescription drug problems,” she said. “Not just somebody stealing (prescriptions), I’m talking about people who are in their 70s and 60s who have been on medication for a long time and they no idea how to get off of them.”

She says addiction can be a lifelong problem if counsellors are not there to intervene.

“About four out of 10 kids who are brought up in an alcoholic home are themselves likely to have and alcoholic home as they grow up and get married and have their children,” she says. “It’s a cycle that continues, so if you don’t have people who are qualified to get in there and break that cycle, then it just will snowball.”

Besides the lack of workers and treatment centres, Henry says another issue is the prohibitive cost of addiction and mental health treatment. She says it can be expensive, and that increased government subsidization would help centres like the Thorpe to provide the necessary care. Henry says they currently have enough resources to get by, but if more patients are admitted they will need to hire new staff.

“We do chemical dependency, which would be alcohol or drugs. We also do process additions, they are gambling and sex addictions. And we also have a family program ... to help them understand what’s going on in the addict’s life,” she said. “But all these programs and all these things that you what to provide require the people behind them to do the work.”

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