Calling it “unacceptable” that the nearest treatment centres for alcohol abuse are in Simcoe and Hamilton, Brant-Brantford’s advisory committee on impaired driving has formally endorsed Brant MPP Dave Levac’s plan to open a detoxification and rehabilitation facility in Brant.
In a letter of support, committee chair Lawrie Palk and vice-chair Gerry Fuss spoke of the negative consequences of inadequate treatment and support services for addicts, including higher rates of fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS), which according to the Brant County Health Unit affects one in 100 children.
“Those kids become adults, so we have a larger percentage of adults with FAS,” Fuss said during a presentation to city council on Monday.
The proposed detox centre would hopefully provide a more effective landing place for alcoholics and people with FAS who currently end up in the justice system, where incarceration is more common than treatment, said Brantford police Sgt. Ramona Ryan.
Ryan said that brain damage caused by prenatal alcohol leaves people with FAS unable to manage money or exercise good judgement. Jail time will not change their behaviour, she said.
The committee agrees that costly incarceration is not the answer.
“(A detox centre) may sound expensive and it may sound like coddling, but it’s preventative,” Fuss said. “It saves money.”
Ryan said a recent health unit report showing alcohol abuse in Brant at higher levels than the provincial average indicates that the need is just as real here as in bigger cities. When addicts are forced to leave the community to get treatment, they’re away from their support network and everything that’s known to them, she said.
“It makes it incredibly difficult,” Ryan said.
Treating young women for alcohol abuse could help lower FAS rates and the accompanying social and actual costs, Ryan said. She said government must balance spending on treatment and prevention.
“With prevention, you’re dealing with future generations,” she said. “With a detox centre, you’re dealing with people who are suffering now.”