Alcohol strategy focus groups enter second phase

Matt Gardner
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The development by focus groups of a comprehensive regional alcohol strategy entered its second phase this month.

Left to right: COR education representative Dr. Shelley Storey, Community Against Family Violence co-ordinator Sandy Pitzel and Prince Albert Parkland Health Region emergency medical records primary health care manager Lydia Franc pose together following a Monday focus group session discussing obstacles and strategies for a comprehensive regional alcohol strategy.

Following an earlier series of focus groups in February organized by Community Mobilization Prince Albert that helped community representatives create an overall vision for the alcohol strategy, April will see participants gauging potential obstacles and developing strategies to overcome them.

“Today was the second of six sessions to happen,” Prince Albert Parkland Health Region EMR primary health care manager and session facilitator Lydia Franc said following a Monday focus group meeting at the Alfred Jenkins Field House.

“This was a very different group, very diverse … in terms of community representation, and what we were working on was identifying what are the obstacles -- so achieving the vision that we worked on earlier in the year -- and also what are the strategies we need to do in order to address those obstacles to move forward around the alcohol strategy.”

Participants attending the focus groups represent a sizable cross-section of individuals and community organizations, including figures from the education, business, policing and health-care sectors as well as youth, aboriginal elders, social workers and representatives of non-governmental organizations.

An estimated 30 to 40 people attended the Monday session, contributing to discussion that saw the development of an alcohol strategy begin to shift from consideration of what the community wanted to how it would implement the desired changes.

“At the beginning (we asked), ‘Why does this matter to us? What needs to change in here?’” Community Against Family Violence co-ordinator and board of police commissioners member-at-large Sandy Pitzel said.

“Now we’re going steps further. We’re saying, ‘What exists here? What are some of our obstacles for change? Who in our community can do what -- either on a volunteer basis, or how can we restructure some of our resources collectively across all these different organizations? Government, non-government, volunteer -- how can we collectively make this change?”

Part of the discussion on existing resources involved asking whether the community would require additional financial resources to achieve its vision, as well as whether there was any existing legislation or policy in place to facilitate the process.

For each strategy proposed to help deal with alcohol, participants considered all the possible requirements and ramifications.

“When we’re looking at education, what does that even mean when it comes to an alcohol strategy to make a change in our community?” Pitzel asked.

“Education for who -- the youth? For the seniors? For people in general? For professionals? Do we need youth teaching other youth? Do we need mentors like that in the education area?”

Now we’re going steps further. We’re saying, ‘What exists here? What are some of our obstacles for change?' Sandy Pitzel

Treatment was another area of concern, with participants examining whether existing resources are adequate and what might conceivably be changed.

Pitzel noted that existing treatment programs in the Prince Albert area last 28 days, with detox lasting an estimated seven to 10 days.

“According to research and according to what we know, is that enough?” she asked. “And then we look at that, they’re saying (it takes a) minimum of six weeks to three months really to make effective change for treatment.

“Is that possible (in our community)? How could it be possible? Can we utilize existing resources in a different way to make some of these things more possible?”

The session also touched on aftercare options for youth as well as pre-treatment and prevention strategies.

Since the focus groups began earlier in the year, organizers have amassed a considerable amount of written material, which will eventually be compiled into a final report.

“Once the focus group sessions are completed for the obstacles and strategic directions, the COR will put together a draft of the whole plan of all the information that’s been brought together and then present it out to the community,” Franc said.

“So we’ll be looking at advertising and letting people know that there’s an opportunity to come and look at the draft plan and to add to it, to add their voices to it and then from there we’ll move to community action planning.”

Noting that the misuse of alcohol has social and economic effects on the community as well as individuals, Pitzel praised the concept of the focus groups in developing an alcohol strategy.

“I just think it’s really an exciting thing to participate in something like this because this is community change in action,” she said.

“I really do believe regardless of your age, your cultural background, all those types of things, male, female, that we all have an important voice and we all have … different life experience, work experience, that we can add to a social issue. And this one’s really important.”

See also:

Focus groups bring city closer to alcohol strategy

Organizations: Alfred Jenkins Field House

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