Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, and Chairman of the NCSA, Hadford Howell, in discussion during yesterday’s Strategic Plan Retreat at the Savannah Hotel. (GP)

Faced with a new reality that illegal drugs and substance abuse are becoming the “norm” in Barbados, the National Council on Substance Abuse (NCSA) is seeking greater public involvement as it finalizes its strategic plan going forward.

To do so, the staff, the board of directors and Minister of Home Affairs, Edmund Hinkson, met for a Strategic Plan Retreat under the theme: Matters of Substance, at the Savannah Beach Hotel yesterday.

In his address, Minister Hinkson cautioned that gone were the days when drug users were identified as “the paro man”, but stated users were also being identified as persons “outfitted in a jacket and tie”.

“It has become clear to us that new levels, patterns and innovations are being utilized to encourage substance abuse. These rapid changes in the abuse of substances, both legal and illegal, if left without an impactful, coordinated response, can result in increased costs to our country’s health, criminal justice system, educational and social systems, and perhaps most significantly at this time, contribute to the loss of productivity in the economic sector,” he pointed out.

He added that as policymakers, it was understood that fixing economic problems did not correct social problems such as drug abuse, especially as methods of communication changed and local culture was impacted by foreign cultures, both positively and negatively.

Acknowledging the small size of the organization, the Minister said building strategic partnerships in the private and public sectors was important as good work was being undertaken by drug demand reduction agencies such as the Substance Abuse Foundation, the Maria Holder and Verdun House Trusts.

However, he encouraged them to engage the media more in broad areas in an effort to dispel public misconceptions that the NCSA was not results oriented. The Minister reasoned that such a strategy would raise the Council’s visibility and encourage other donor agencies to lend assistance in cash or kind.

“All available resources, human and otherwise, must be employed to tackle this mammoth task of fighting the scourge of substance abuse,” he said.

NCSA Chairman, Hadford Howell, said the retreat was also designed to come up with new programmes and have them incorporated into the strategic plan going forward.

“We come together as Team NCSA to tighten some deliverables, bring up time frames, work with strategic partners more to achieve what we want to do. Once we have done that then we can go forward…,” he pointed out.

The inputs from yesterday’s retreat will be included in the new draft Barbados National Anti-Drug Plan, which is presently in the final stages of review.

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