Annapolis Valley rallies against prescription pills’ devastation
© Nancy Kelly
Five empty chairs with photos of Valley youth who have died recently from prescription drug use sat at the front of the room.
BY NANCY KELLY
Kings County Advertiser/Register
A town hall meeting confronted the painful realities of an “epidemic of prescription drug use” among young people in the Valley, and the less-than-satisfactory treatment options available for all those coping with addictions.
The session, hosted at the Berwick fire hall by Kings West MLA Leo Glavine, drew close to 160 people, many of whom had stories to share about the ravages of addiction.
“There is a great deal of pain in this room,” said Glavine, personally acquainted with three of the young men who have died recently from prescription drug use.
“Things have got to change - and they will change.”
He credited mounting public pressure for getting the NDP government to examine recent prescription drug-related deaths in the Annapolis Valley. Earlier in the day, Health and Wellness Minister Maureen MacDonald announced Dr. Richard Gould, Medical Officer of Health for the Annapolis Valley, Southwest and South Shore, will work with the Annapolis Valley District Health Authority to look into the deaths, which have raised concerns among law enforcement and community organizations.
Glavine organized this session with members of Annapolis Valley Fighting Addiction, which has been calling on the government to provide emergency funding for long term recovery programs and to improve access to methadone treatment to help addicts get off drugs.
Organization spokeswoman Leslie Tilley, a former volunteer with the Middleton hospital’s detox clinic, said services currently available “are not working,” and, since December, 11 young people in the Valley have died as a result of their addictions.
“We need emergency funds now. We need methadone clinics now. We need a 28-day detox program now, and a better system for monitoring prescription drugs,” challenged Tilley.
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“How many more kids have to die?”
Amy Graves, whose brother, Josh, died in March after combining alcohol and pills at a party, read letters from others whose lives have been impacted by the addiction of a loved-one. About her brother, Graves said, “one small choice ended his life and opportunities forever.
“It is cheaper to buy pills than a pack of smokes. It is far too easy to get them.”
She likened the lack and infrequency of addiction treatment programs in the Valley to a “lottery to keep living.”
Joining Glavine at the session were Kings County MLAs Ramona Jennex and Jim Morton, whose 34-year career as a social worker included an eight-year stint as manager of the local addiction services program.
“It is important to bring these issues out of the silence,” said Morton, who said, “there are no magic bullets” when dealing with addictions. Despite being heckled by some members of the audience, chanting, “help now,” Morton defended the addictions services currently available in the Valley.
“There are a great many services available in this area that people can turn to. Don’t get discouraged.”
Glavine thanked those who came to the meeting to “speak out honestly and frankly” about their situations.
“It takes a community effort to deal with this issue.”