Police chief gets credit for treatment centre

White ‘repackaged’ drug facility idea as crime prevention tool
The newcomer to Ottawa credited with being the catalyst for a new residential drug-treatment centre for youth managed the feat by “repackaging” the proposal from a health issue into a crime prevention issue.
Yesterday, as a who’s who of politicians and community leaders gathered for a multi-million-dollar funding announcement by Premier Dalton McGuinty, police Chief Vern White was praised for being instrumental in putting together the deal that has eluded Ottawa for two decades.
Chief White has been in Ottawa only 15 months, but has done what no one else had managed to do in
“Everyone complains about lack of health care. So I called it a ‘crime prevention tool’,” said Chief White after the press conference yestserday. “The old packaging wasn’t working, so I repackaged it.”
According to Chief White’s calculations, taking 20 youths with drug addictions off the street would result in 80 to 160 fewer minor crimes each day. Each addicted youth commits four to eight crimes a day, ranging from prostitution to vehicle smash-and-grabs to support a drug habit, he estimates.
Chief White took his repackaged argument on the road in the Ottawa area, speaking to more than 50 community groups and service clubs. He didn’t talk about youth, he talked about parents.
“They’re our kids,” he said.
As it stands, drug-addicted youths must go to Thunder Bay and even farther for residential drug-treatment programs. According to figures from the United Way of Ottawa, one in six Ontario high school students reports symptoms of drug use, which translates into 9,000 Ottawa high school students. Young people typically begin to experiment with alcohol at age 12 and with illicit drugs at 14.
Long-term residential treatment for addicts results in a 71-per-cent decrease in substance use and a 61-per-cent decrease in criminal behaviour, according to the United Way.
A campaign to get a residential treatment centre had been on the agenda for years, but plan after plan fell apart.
In June 2006, a proposal to buy the former Rideau Correctional Centre near Burritts Rapids and convert it into a treatment centre was shelved amid concerns about a native land claim encompassing the property.
A likely location for a new anglophone residential centre is the Meadow Creek treatment facility on Carp Road, currently used for programs helping adult addicts. The program is scheduled to be moved into Ottawa in about a month. East-end locations are still being scouted for a francophone program.
Chief White credited restaurateur and fundraiser Dave Smith with being the “DNA” behind the project.
“I have been hollering and screaming for 20 years,” said Mr. Smith yesterday. “Sending kids to the American side wasn’t the answer.” Mr. Smith’s campaign to get a residential centre for youth resulted in the creation of an outpatient drug treatment program. It wasn’t what he wanted, but it was “better than nothing at all,” he said. Mr. Smith said he’s just glad Ottawa will finally be getting a residential centre.
Source: The Ottawa Citizen Published: Wednesday, June 11, 2008

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