More than three years after the idea for a city-wide alcohol strategy was first proposed in Prince Albert, the community group responsible for bringing the strategy to fruition is holdings its preliminary meetings.
Dating as far back as 2012, concerned P.A. groups – including health and social services and police – decided the city had a problem that needed to be addressed. The Community Mobilization Prince Albert group is only now formalizing a steering committee.
“(The steering committee is) working on formalizing, and once that’s formalized…we’ll have some executive positions and we’ll know who can make the calls,” interim executive director Markus Winterberger said. “Then they’ll really be able to take the next steps and really get moving forward.”
Winterberger attributes the slow progress to changes in leadership – there have been three different executive directors of the mobilization group – and changes in methodology or the way issues are defined.
This steering committee first met Nov. 27, 2015 and is in the process of creating a strategy to deal with alcohol specific issues, like chronic alcoholism, binge and underage drinking.
“I think the problem is that we got used to an altered tolerance to the use of alcohol…and we need to move towards a culture of a more responsible use of alcohol,” Winterberger said.
The steering committee is meant to empower the community, he said. It will not implement programs to tackle alcoholism, or even create programs; it is meant merely to facilitate.
“When you see other people talking about alcohol strategies some think ‘well that is some agencies telling us what needs to be done.’ No. Not with this one. It’s a community alcohol strategy. It’s an enabler for the whole community, for every single individual,” Winterberger said.
The community will be involved in action planning, or asked to suggest things they think will help. He said a resident asking to host dry or alcohol-free events is an example of an action plan.
“The sky is the limit. It’s not the steering committee telling the people what to do, it’s the people themselves.”
There is not a source of funding allocated for the alcohol strategy or action plans. This detail would be the responsibility of the steering committee. Winterberger said there’s no single agency that can dictate a change, as the overarching goal of the steering committee is to create a culture of more responsible alcohol use.
Across the board, P.A.’s alcohol consumption statistics were higher than provincial or national averages. Where the city’s residents spent roughly $1,250 on alcohol per year, the provincial norm was only $703. Roughly 68 per cent of P.A. Grade 10 students admitted to binge drinking, where only 50 per cent of the national equivalent did also.