(File photo courtesy of ardelfin via morgueFile)

Community Leaders Look To Battle Local Drug Abuse

A group of community stakeholders are looking to tackle the ever-present problem of substance abuse within London-Middlesex.

The Middlesex-London Health Unit hosted a meeting on Wednesday morning to begin discussions about how best to address the issue. The meeting included around 80 leaders from health and social service organizations, cultural groups, neighborhood associations, law enforcement, the business sector, along with local politicians and education officials.

“For [the health unit], our goal was to begin the conversation with these stakeholders about a community drug strategy… And to gauge their interest in moving forward in a coordinated, comprehensive way,” says Heather Lokko, the health unit’s associate director of oral health, communicable disease and sexual health services.

Lokko says the health unit presented a “four pillar” approach to tackling the drug problem. She says the initiative would focus on prevention, treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.

“It’s a wide spread issue that affects many people, ” she says. “It’s definitely a very serious concern [and] there was significant interest in trying to move forward.”

According to Lokko, a report completed in 2014, showed that opiate use was the greatest ongoing drug problem in the London-Middlesex region. However, she says the meeting addressed all forms of substance abuse.

“We were talking about alcohol, we were talking street drugs, we were talking prescription drugs that are diverted from non prescription use. So we were talking quite broadly, and that affects all sectors of society,” she says, adding that a long-term commitment is needed to address the problem.

Moving forward, Loko says a smaller group of community stakeholders intend to convene in January to develop a strategy for implementation of a substance abuse action plan.

“From the comments that were made, I would say that I feel very hopeful and very positive about our ability to move forward together,” she says.