Focus groups bring city closer to alcohol strategy

Matt Gardner
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A series of visioning focus groups this week are taking Prince Albert and area one step closer to a comprehensive regional alcohol strategy.

Prince Albert Parkland Health Region electronic medical record primary health care manager Lydia Franc points out where visioning focus groups currently underway fall in terms of the overall plan to develop a comprehensive alcohol strategy for Prince Albert and area.

Community Mobilization Prince Albert (CMPA) has scheduled several focus groups and invited members of the community to discuss the issues at play and potential ideas for moving forward.

Helping to facilitate the sessions is Prince Albert Parkland Health Region (PAPHR) electronic medical record primary health care manager Lydia Franc.

“We’re just at the beginning of the planning session, so right now we don’t have any idea how this is going to come together because this is one of six sessions just for the vision,” Franc said.

“So it’s going to take us a while yet to build that collective vision, which will happen at the plenary.”

Leading up to the plenary session, the six separate focus groups offer a chance for attendees to brainstorm ideas for the collective community vision necessary for the development of a coherent alcohol strategy.

Offering an update on progress following a Tuesday focus group at the P.A. Exhibition Centre, Franc noted, “Today went exceptionally well. It’s very different in terms of the ideas that came forward from the first one, but that’s to be expected. We have different people with different experience.”

“It was awesome,” she added. “I mean, they got right into it -- very engaged, very excited. We had four people sign up for the plenary, so people are wanting to be part of this in a big way.”

Attendees at that day’s focus group shared her enthusiasm.

Noting that the process was still in its early stages, PAPHR regional executive director for mental health and addiction Brett Enns said participants had attempted to gain an understanding of the present situation and how to move forward.

“It’s an excellent opportunity for us as a community to get together and collaborate, specifically on issues that affect families and our community,” Enns said.

PAPHR public health inspection manager Paul Ross said the focus group had generated ample discussion regarding the city’s “intense” rates of alcohol use and related consequences.

This is just the beginning of building a plan. Lydia Franc

“Everybody’s expertise is valued and put into the exercise,” he said. “So there are lots of different ideas and hopefully we’ll see some positive results.”

Associated data documents outlined four elements of a potential alcohol strategy: education and prevention, support and treatment, harm reduction and enforcement.

Harm reduction, Franc noted, is one area where individuals may take steps on their own to improve conditions.

“What can I do in my own family, in my own neighbourhood to reduce harm related to alcohol?” she asked.

“It’s not so much harm and reduction in terms of what an agency can do, but what can we do collectively as a community, individuals and families, neighbours within this community to reduce the harm related to alcohol, or to prevent harm related to alcohol?”

Following the visioning focus groups, participants will move on to a series of focus groups discussing obstacles and strategies moving forward.

While the focus groups have brought out individual ideas on addressing the city’s alcohol problem and later sessions aim to synthesize these into a collective vision, public input remains a vital part of the process.

The wider community will have a chance to examine the ideas when they are put into a collective report to be presented to the public.

“This is just the beginning of building a plan … and then we start actions,” Franc said.

“But what we’re seeing happening is that people are already from these sessions (having) ideas -- ‘Hey, I can do something about this. I’m going to start now. I’m not going to wait’ -- and so that’ll all add into helping to achieve that vision.”

Organizations: CMPA, P.A. Exhibition Centre

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