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Harm reduction and fighting poverty centre of Manitoba NDP addictions strategy

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Manitoba’s Opposition NDP has released its ideas for how to combat the ongoing crisis of drug abuse and addiction in the province, and harm reduction and reducing poverty are at the heart of the strategy.

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says reducing poverty is a long-term goal with significant resources and investments required, while a new harm-reduction strategy could create some more immediate and positive outcomes.

The 20-page report suggests the current battle with methamphetamine is only the latest version of a struggle to deal with addiction that goes back many years and includes the use of opioids and fentanyl.

“Manitoba has an addictions crisis, not just a meth crisis,” reads one of the report’s headlines.

Called We Have to Start Here, the report’s authors canvassed health and addictions workers and members of law enforcement agencies.

The contributors, Kinew says, were kept anonymous to prevent “reprisals related to their jobs.” He also declined to say how many people were consulted while gathering the information. 

NDP Leader Wab Kinew says ‘if we want to put the addictions issue to bed in Manitoba we need to fight poverty.’ (Gary Solilak/CBC )

Much of the background data on the addictions crisis has been widely covered in media. Meth-related ER visits have spiked, provincial health authorities distributed more than two million needles in 2017-18, and there is a significant increase in cases of blood-borne illnesses like hepatitis C, HIV and syphilis.

Respondents cited in the NDP’s report say poverty is a major contributor to addictions, and the government should make significant investments in its reduction to lower drug abuse rates.

If somebody has housing, if somebody has food, if somebody has a meaningful life — they don’t use meth.– Wab Kinew, Manitoba NDP leader

Citing the Virgo report on mental health and addictions, released last year, “the link between high rates of addiction among children and youth was poverty,” the NDP’s report says.

The report also says Indigenous people, because of the impact of colonization, poverty and residential schools, are more likely to turn to substance abuse.

The Opposition party is calling for provincewide job creation and training programs, increases in the number of social housing units and an overhaul of the Child and Family Services system.

“If somebody has housing, if somebody has food, if somebody has a meaningful life — they don’t use meth,” Kinew told reporters.

Poverty only 1 driver of addiction: Main Street Project

That comment caught the attention of Rick Lees at the Main Street Project.

Lees, who directs the substance abuse shelter and outreach program in Winnipeg’s core area, says many of the report’s suggestions aren’t a surprise, and are things he and others have been advocating for.

But Lees warns that addictions aren’t always connected to poverty. He says it’s just one driver of addiction.

Main Street Project’s executive director, Rick Lees, said poverty is only one driver of addiction. (Tyson Koschik/CBC)

“Addiction levels the playing field and crosses all strata, demographics and class, so I am not sure that just putting a roof and food in someone’s way is going to be helpful,” Lees said.

He told CBC News he welcomed more dialogue on dealing with the city’s drug problem, but urged all sides to “stop looking at addictions through political lenses.”

Harm reduction

The second major thrust of coping with addictions in the province is harm reduction, according to the NDP report. Experts in the field told the authors the current view of drug use must end.

Kinew acknowledged reducing poverty was a long-term goal with strategies that take years to implement.

“In the absence of being able to accomplish those larger-term objectives immediately, what we need to do is implement harm-reduction techniques,” Kinew said.

The NDP is calling for a supervised consumption site in Winnipeg, 50 new long-term treatment beds across the province, research into new drug treatment programs and an overhaul of education on drug use.

Kinew declined to cost out either the poverty-reduction strategy or harm-reduction efforts, saying the NDP would hold a policy summit later in the year to chose specific programs and release the numbers as part of its position for the 2020 provincial election.

The NDP’s look into addictions also warned past efforts based on a “just say no” approach have failed, especially among children.

“Respondents believe a focus on abstinence-based education must be abandoned because as long as poverty, adverse childhood experiences and systemic inequality exist, drug use will remain in our society,” the report said.

Kinew reiterated this point, saying the experts he’s spoken to believe the old “war-on-drugs” stance and warning children on the evils of drugs have failed and may even prompt kids even more to try illicit substances.   

‘Half-baked,’ says PC minister

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen lashed out at the NDP’s contention that saying no to drugs is a failed effort.

Cullen says the report contains “half-baked, dangerous ideas.” 

“Wab Kinew wants to tell kids it’s OK to do meth and other illicit drugs. I have raised three boys to adulthood and I am proud to say I told them never to use illicit drugs. And they haven’t,” Cullen told reporters.

Justice Minister Cliff Cullen defended his government’s efforts to combat drug addiction.

Cullen says his Progressive Conservative government will receive recommendations from its own task force on addictions in June and expects many substantial policy changes will come from it.

He also defended what the Tories have done so far to push back against the issue of addictions in the province, citing an increase in treatment beds, opening new paid access addictions clinics and signing a deal with Ottawa for more funding for mental health and addictions treatment.

Cullen was also critical of the NDP’s decision not to name sources in their report.

Manitoba’s Opposition NDP has released its ideas for how to combat the ongoing crisis of drug abuse and addiction in the province. 2:39

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Now 10 cases of measles diagnosed in B.C. outbreak, vaccinations way up

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VANCOUVER — Two new cases of measles have been diagnosed in the Vancouver area for a total of 10 illnesses as health officials say they’re concerned they can’t find the source of one of the infections.

Vancouver Coastal medical health officer Dr. Althea Hayden says nine of the cases are clearly associated with schools that were at the centre of the original outbreak this month, but they don’t know where the other person contracted the disease.

The health authority has also released a list of locations where one of the infected people travelled over three days from Feb. 15 to Feb. 18, including restaurants, on a Canada Line commuter train and Langara College.

Hayden says the health authority is doing its best to find the source of measles in the 10th person in an effort to prevent more people from being exposed.

Measles at first presents with flu-like symptoms, coughing, a runny nose and red eyes, but then a fever develops, followed by the distinctive rash.

Hayden says the response to a call for people to get vaccinated has been fantastic and the health authority has seen a large number of first-time vaccinations.

“It’s the best thing that people can do to protect themselves, it’s the best thing we all can do to protect our community.”

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Students with ADHD less likely to enrol in post-secondary education, study says

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Danielle Edwards, The Canadian Press


Published Friday, February 22, 2019 2:58PM EST

OTTAWA — Students with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder are much less likely to go to college or university than those with no long-term health conditions, according to a new report from Statistics Canada.

The gap suggests teachers need better training in how to work with students whose behaviour can come off as disruptive and who might seem uninterested in their studies, advocates say.

“They are going to have one to three kids with ADHD in every class they teach for the rest of their career, and this is just regular classrooms, yet we’re not training them,” said Heidi Bernhardt, the executive director of the Centre for ADHD Awareness.

Researchers found that young people with neither a mental-health nor a neurodevelopmental disorder, 77 per cent had enrolled in a post-secondary program.

Only 48 per cent of Canadians between 18 and 22 years old who had a diagnosed mental-health condition had enrolled in a post-secondary institution. That includes students diagnosed with emotional, psychological or nervous conditions, but nearly three-quarters of this group were diagnosed with ADHD, which is considered a mental illness.

The researchers found 60 per cent of youth diagnosed with neurodevelopmental disorders enrolled, including people with epilepsy, cerebral palsy, intellectual disabilities or learning disabilities.

Among young adults with both a mental-health and a neurodevelopmental condition, 36 per cent had enrolled in higher education.

The report used data from the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth, as well as some data from income-tax returns.

Educators may misinterpret the symptoms of ADHD as bad behaviour, leaving students discouraged about learning and more prone to dropping out of high school, said Bernhardt. She said students with ADHD and no additional learning disabilities score eight to 10 per cent lower in math and reading.

Andrew King, director of communications at the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, said there is no data on the number of teachers across the country who are trained in supporting students with special needs.

Bernhardt also said supports for students with ADHD are inconsistent across provinces.

Ontario has a system for identifying “exceptionalities” for students that divides disorders into five different categories, including autism and intellectual disabilities. ADHD isn’t on that list.

Dr. Philippe Robaey, head of the ADHD team at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario, said learning organizational skills is the biggest challenge facing students with the disorder, which can be difficult when they struggle with staying focused on one task.

“When I see kids with ADHD, what they often will say is that ‘I’m stupid.’ Of course they are not, this is the perception they may just develop about themselves, but they are not able to do things so they can develop very poor self-esteem and not believe in what they can do.”

Robaey said setting students with ADHD up for success starts with individualized learning plans and access to specialized classrooms and teachers who are equipped to encourage youth with special needs.

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New biological batteries use energy inspired by electric eels, could be used on next-gen robots, bio-implants

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(Natural News) Battery technology is constantly improving, despite there being only fair coverage about it on the news. Unless you’re specifically looking for what’s new in the world of rechargeable batteries, you aren’t likely to find a lot of information. But there are many experts around the world who are currently working on improving the…

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