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News Articles: Maple Ridge Meth task force expands scope
Public Meetings The Maple Ridge crystal meth task force is expanding its mandate to include all addictions and mental illness.

Doing so doesn't mean a name change for the group, which formed in 2004 to tackle a surge in crystal meth addiction among homeless people and youth in the community.

"I think that would create serious problems if we change the name of the task force that has been funded provincially," said task force chair Mary Robson.

Since forming three years ago, the task force has found that many clients suffer from a mental illness and that their addictions span several drugs.

The new mandate makes a role the task force has always done clearer, Robson added.

"It seems silly that we have to do that, but it just makes people understand what the task force has been doing and is all about."

By broadening its role, the task force hopes to make a final push.

"Maple Ridge has led the way all along and we can lead the way again," Robson said, pointing to a drop in the number of homeless people as a gauge of task force's success.

An official homeless count for 2005 by the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. (SPARC) showed 42 homeless people living in Maple Ridge and Pitt Meadows when the count was done that summer. A count in 2002 showed 62 homeless people.

Robson said local outreach workers report the number dropped to 20 this year.

"When we started, we were over 200. If we are at 20 can, can we be zero and can we catch them before they fall?"

Jan. 15 will mark the task force's first meeting of the New Year and the start of a 90-day campaign to see what more can be done to combat addictions and deal with mental illness.

"I think because of the action the community has taken crystal meth is a dirty word on the streets. Yet, for one moment, I don't think we have it beat," Robson said.

Ron Lawrance, executive director of Alouette Addictions, is excited to hear what the task force has planned and is looking forward to working with them.

He said crystal meth has yet to become a huge problem in Maple Ridge, but added the task force did the right thing by trying to target one drug.

"Any initiative that's happening that's looking at what's going on in our community and trying to provide solutions. Alouette Addictions is excited about being a part of it," Lawrance said.

By Monisha Martins, Staff Reporter, Jan 03 2007 Information: 778-230-810.

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