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Princeton becomes one of the first towns in Canada to champion medical approach to alcohol use disorder – Penticton News

A chance meeting between long-time health care advocates in Princeton and the board chair of the Canadian Alcohol Use Disorder Society (CAUDS) led to the town’s recent success in championing a medical approach to the issue.

Interior Health recently shared the story behind the healthy community initiative in Princeton, which began back in Kelowna in 2021.

Accoridng to IH, Nienke Klaver and Ed Staples met with Lori Motluk from CAUDS and were introduced to the work that was being advanced by Dr. Jeff Harries in addressing Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD).

Harries, who has since passed away, had been working on taking a medical approach — including prescribed medicine — to AUD. The CAUDS engagement project was brought to Princeton.

In collaboration with a variety of community partners, including the Community Foundation of South Okanagan-Similkameen, and University of Alberta professor Dr. Tom Barker, CAUDS held its first community mobilization workshop on alcohol use disorder Nov. 16, 2022.

“At the workshop, we underscored Princeton’s success in managing disasters,” Motluk said in the news release.

“We asked, what would it look like if you used all your learnings from managing disasters to applying it to AUD, and what could we accomplish. We were looking at using community members’ skills to change how people seek care, how they are cared for, and the culture of drinking.”

After the workshop, a working group was formed to identify events and activities that resonated with the community’s needs. The objective was to spread the word about the medical approach to AUD, and encourage healthy, stigma-free conversations around alcohol.

Some of these included introducing the community to the Princeton Alcohol Use Disorder Group, a school wellness conference and health fair, a meeting with town council, and a community-wide mocktail party in the town square.

IH said the local Save-On-Foods also got on board with the changes that were happening in Princeton.

“Non-alcoholic beverages are definitely a fast growing grocery category,” said Brandon McArthur, manager at the local store.

“As the demand for non-alcoholic beverages has increased, we’ve doubled our shelf space for them in the past couple of years, and the innovations and products in this category are a hit with our customers. We’re thrilled to support events like Mocktail Party as part of our commitment to be an active member of the community and a good neighbour in Princeton.”

IH said the community of Princeton has been able to come together to create grassroots change in how alcohol is viewed and talked about.

“Thanks to informal information sharing, social media, events and initiatives, there’s a buzz in town about how AUD can be treated. What has been a topic surrounded in stigma and shame, conversations are now more positive and energized.”

One IH psychiatric nurse shared that they have also noticed changes in how patients are cared for.

“It’s been easier for the patients I’m working with to talk about their alcohol use. The conversations have been easier,” nurse Karen Fulton explained.

The pilot project is now being rolled out in other communities across BC and help is available for alcohol use. More information and resources can be found online here.

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