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Cold Lake RCMP applying for drug awareness grant

Cold Lake RCMP is taking advantage of a new grant designed to help fund drug prevention and awareness programming in light of the growing fentanyl crisis in Alberta.
The Cold Lake RCMP is applying for a new provincial grant, aimed at raising awareness about fentanyl use.
The Cold Lake RCMP is applying for a new provincial grant, aimed at raising awareness about fentanyl use.

Cold Lake RCMP is taking advantage of a new grant designed to help fund drug prevention and awareness programming in light of the growing fentanyl crisis in Alberta.

The Proceeds of Crime grants will be available to police and their community partners through funds forfeited to the province following federally prosecuted Criminal Code offences.

“It's obvious that there is a problem with fentanyl in the province and this is a move that will allow us to get more education out there to the demographics that require the information,” said Cold Lake RCMP Sgt. Troy Hadland.

Cold Lake Victim Services program manager David Zimmerman is overseeing the application for the grant, which, if successful, will create a partnership between the RCMP, Victim Services, Addictions Cold Lake and other partners that are yet to be confirmed.

“We have to get that awareness out there,” said Zimmerman, noting that awareness programs focused on dangerous street drugs such as fentanyl would be created for children and their parents, First Nations and Métis communities in the region. “It's really to make sure people are aware that there are drugs and no one is immune to drug use, it can happen under your own roof with your kids.”

Although the program will focus on students in Grades 6 through 8, Zimmerman said he also hopes to create a drug board that will give parents the resources they need to deal with children abusing drugs.

At the request of the Cold Lake First Nations and the Elizabeth Métis Settlement, the detachment would also use the grant to promote anti-drug awareness programs in those communities.

“They actually said that they want drug awareness in their community to educate their community members,” Hadland noted.

Total funding available through the grant, which is a joint provincial-federal fund directed specifically at law enforcement, is $220,000, with a maximum of $20,000 per project for an 18-month period.

“Recent deaths in our province have highlighted the tragic consequences of street drugs and just how dangerous fentanyl can be,” Minister of Justice and Solicitor General Kathleen Ganly said in a Dec. 16 statement. “These grants will help our law enforcement partners increase awareness about the dangers of fentanyl and other street drugs through prevention and awareness initiatives.”

However, Bonnyville-Cold Lake MLA and shadow justice minister Scott Cyr said the province has not done enough to combat the rise of dangerous street drugs such as fentanyl.

“The fact is that this is one thing the government hasn't been doing enough on and we need to be making sure that we start working with all governments and all agencies on trying to combat this crisis that we're in.”

In response to a rising number of fentanyl-related deaths, the Wildrose opposition drafted a 10-point recommendation plan on Dec. 18, which Cyr helped write.

“As the shadow minister of justice this is something that I've been very concerned with for a while now and let's be clear that the justice minister and the health minister have not been working fast enough to get the concern out to Albertans,” Cyr said.

Wildrose's 10-point plan to combat the fentanyl crisis includes measures such as implementing a new “patch for patch” system, which would require people with a prescription for fentanyl to turn in their used patches before receiving a few one, further empowering frontline workers and restoring funding of the Alberta Law Enforcement Response Team.

Cyr also wants front line emergency responders to have access to naloxone, an antidote to opiate overdosing which can save lives if administered within minutes of an overdose.

“First responders need to have this available to them and right now the government hasn't been moving fast enough to get this into first responders' hands and that's distressing.”

In 2013, authorities recorded 213 overdose deaths in Alberta due to fentanyl. The Bonnyville RCMP seized over 500 pills of fentanyl during a raid at a Bonnyville house on Nov. 16 and the Cold Lake RCMP has indicated that fentanyl is a concern in the city.

“This isn't just an Edmonton or Calgary problem, this is an Alberta wide problem,” Cyr said. “When I start seeing these busts happen in my community, this is an eye opener for myself as well as everybody in the riding.”