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North Bay’s drug strategy committee to disband at the end of April

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After 15 years of alerting the public about harmful drugs on city streets, the Community Drug Strategy North Bay and Area steering committee is disbanding at the end of April.

“They've done things on stigma around drug use. There's so many things that it's hard to list them,” said committee chair Pat Cliche.

The committee was formed through the support of former Mayor Al McDonald, who emphasized the need for a drug strategy group in his platform during the 2010 municipal election.

This came after a previous drug awareness group dissolved. McDonald approached Cliche about picking up the pieces following four pillars: prevention, harm reduction, enforcement and treatment.

“Those pieces that the strategy was involved in are going to be picked up and carried on,” said North Bay Police Chief Daryl Longworth.

Currently made up of 12 members, the committee would meet to discuss strategies on how to tackle mental health, addictions, and dangerous street drugs pouring onto the streets of North Bay and area.

One of the most important projects the committee led was the P4P (patch-for-patch) pilot project to curb the growing trend of fentanyl abuse. It generally applies as a “one in, one out” model. Clients are asked to return any patches dispensed to them back to the pharmacy before they can receive more.

Bill 33 was introduced by Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli and passed in December 2015. On Oct. 1, 2016, it became a legal requirement across Ontario.

Cliche said the intent of the bill was to implement a mandatory P4P program to address the ongoing issue of opioid-related deaths and serve as a tool to help reduce the abuse of fentanyl patches.

“It actually turned into a provincial law,” she said.

“So that was the first thing we ever did. But we've now done projects on human trafficking.”

A substance use disorder treatment support network sub-committee will remain as an active group. With the city’s community safety and well-being plan now in effect and addressing the same issues, Cliche said it created a redundancy within the system.

“As long as our safety community well-being plan continues, the work of looking at some of the drugs, homelessness, addictions, and mental health, we're satisfied,” she said.

Longworth said front-line police remain heavily invested in drug prevention programs and strategies.

“The committee is still very much a focal point of what services this community provides and stopping people from getting into that kind of a culture where we have to do the enforcement,” he said.

Cliche said the best option for the committee’s future includes a potential rebranding with the objective of providing education and awareness about street drugs through social media. 

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