Our parents raise us. Our schools teach us.
Then it is time for us to go out into the “real world” and fend for ourselves.
Many of us equate success in life with finding a good job and making money.
But in reality, it is the quality of our overall health during our lives that is the key to how happy and how successful we can be.
In this installment of our series on the Vancouver Island Health Authority’s Local Health Area Profile on Alberni and the West Coast, we learn how a healthy community can help support those struggling with mental, physical and emotional challenges, and what happens to those who go down a darker path.
While a segment of the population struggles with health issues related to diseases and chronic health conditions, others adopt unhealthy behaviours that affect their own quality of life.
As VIHA Central Vancouver Island medical health officer Dr. Paul Hasselback points out, “crime rates are often interrelated with addictions and/or a lack of adequate income supports.
Alberni also has more non-cannabis drug offenses (261 per 100,000) than VIHA (127), according to 2011 figures.
“Many people are in a jail or prison setting who could have possibly avoided it if they had been treated for mental illness,” Hasselback explained.
While major crimes tend to be trending downwards—good news for all of us—a significant proportion of reported crimes are related to drug use, production and sale.
Alcohol and drug problems don’t just ruin the lives of addicts. They are known jumping-off points for many serious and petty crimes that plague so many communities.
The 2011 health profile reveals Alberni’s serious crime rate is 16.1 per 1,000, higher than B.C. (13.5) and significantly higher than VIHA (6.5).
Port Alberni RCMP Cpl. Jen Allan said more serious drug offenses here are mainly related to crack and cocaine addiction and trafficking, but added marijuana grow ops are routinely linked to more serious drug offenses and organized crime.
“These can all be linked back to addictions,” Allan said. “From street-level dealers all the way to complex organized crime rings.”
If addiction appears to be a problem for a suspect, police highlight it in their report to Crown to ensure judgment includes conditions such as treatment, curfews and abstaining from illegal substances and/or alcohol.
A key tool police can also employ is a Local Crisis Response Team, a group of professionals who are on-call to visit prisoners in cells. They reach out to people in crisis, at a time when they may be most open to admitting they have a problem.
“This is a huge help,” Allan said. “This isn’t the uniform who maybe wrestled with them in the back lot.”
Experts agree the overall health of this community is key to deterring negative outcomes like addictions and crime.
“The whole of the addictions issue is often related to lack of vitality in a community,” Dr. Hasselback explained.
He added that, “health services tend to get involved when there is already a problem.”
◆ MENTAL HEALTH and Addictions Services: 250-731-1311.
◆ 310MENTAL HEALTH Support Line: 310-6789.
◆ KUU-US CRISIS Society: 250-723-4050. Includes housing assistance.
◆ CRISIS LINE (Vancouver Island): 1-888-494-3888.
◆ PORT ALBERNI Association for Community Living: 250-724-7155.
◆ ALBERNI COMMUNITY and Women’s Services Society: 250-724-7111.
Next week: The cause and effect of a tough economy.