McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association is hosting their first annual addictions programming fundraiser coming up later this month.
The event runs at the Black Knight Inn on Sept. 18 from noon to 1:30 p.m.
McMan is putting together a holistic program using the Seven Challenges Counseling Program to provide local youth with a means for real recovery; dealing with the root issues that led them to drugs and alcohol, said Christine Stewart, a program manager with McMan. She said the problem of youth addiction to alcohol and drugs is pervasive in Central Alberta.
Funds raised on Sept. 18 will go towards supporting ongoing programs run through McMan, as well as a capital campaign towards a permanent treatment facility.
“We want to open up a six to eight-bed facility,” she said. Being able to house the youth for a time enhances the impact of treatment as well.
The need for the service is growing.
“Kids turn to drugs for a million different reasons. Some are more prone to peer pressure and some have more struggles internally then we even realize. Almost all of the ones we see, that have strong addiction problems, have turned to drugs to help them cope with something.
“It may have nothing to do with their family support at home; it may have everything to do with it.”
Some youth self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to lessen symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder for example, and others might become addicted to something to help them cope with anger issues. Others find themselves addicted to their parents’ prescription drugs for a range of reasons as well.
“Most of them are trying to shut something out. But whatever the reason, they get stuck there.”
Dealing with all the core issues that led to addiction in the first place is of course the overriding goal. So over the past while, Stewart has been busy touching base with local politicians and community organizations to get the word out about McMan’s vision.
The Seven Challenges Counseling Program, widely used in the United States, is key to helping youth out of the trap of addiction. “We don’t go in and tell kids ‘You have to quit drugs’. It doesn’t work with teens; it doesn’t work with most people. But (the program) works with them and their thought processes – how they make decisions.”
McMan currently works with Alberta Health Services to provide a detox program for teens who are court-ordered to attend. But as the Stewart points out, addictions require more than 10 days to be truly broken. Currently, youths leave the program at McMan and return to their lives exactly as they had left them. “They may be referred to counseling or other support services, but without an opportunity to learn entirely new skills for coping, the chances of relapse are huge.”
The goal therefore is to provide a residential stay for three to six months of addictions counseling and treatment.
“We would then provide up to another three to six months of on-site residency while the youth learns to attend school and/or work while utilizing all they have learned about staying clean. The youth would then return home or to independence with follow-up counseling and group attendance as support.”
The issue also is that if kids get trapped into addictions, it’s all the more challenging to get out of because they’re identity can be so entrenched with addiction issues. “They haven’t had enough life experience yet to know that this isn’t who they are. Even three months in an (treatment) environment would enable them to see this is what life can be like. You can still have fun, you can be healthy and active. We can transition them back into their environments. They have their whole lives ahead of them.”
As Stewart points out, organizers are able to provide the program but help is needed to make it affordable for youth.
It’s also important that people realize how effective the investment in supporting addictions treatment really is. “They are going down a really bad path if they don’t get help now. The crime, jail times, the hospital times – all of that – is way more expensive than the costs of this program.”
Meanwhile, Mayor Morris Flewwelling will be speaking at the fundraiser, plus there will be a presentation by Stewart and George MacLeod, also of the McMan Youth, Family and Community Services Association, as well.
For ticket information, contact Christine Stewart at 403-506-8961 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.