Rebecca Denham, director of services for Jewish Addiction Community Service of Vancouver. (photo by Wendy Oberlander)
The first comprehensive effort to reach Jewish individuals suffering from addictions launched this month in Vancouver when the Jewish Addiction Community Service of Vancouver came into being. Its goal is to approach substance abuse issues – specifically alcohol and drugs – within a Jewish context.
The first two services being offered by JACS Vancouver are a support group for families living with substance abuse and navigational support, to help direct individuals and families to the right channels in the support system, whether they want access to recovery programs, counseling or other resources. But those services will expand rapidly to include community education and awareness building.
“We want to teach people how to identify when someone is in trouble with substance abuse, and to get them to the right services,” said Rebecca Denham, director of services for JACS, who will be providing assistance from an office at JHub in Richmond (8171 Cook Rd., Suite 212).
Denham is planning to do this outreach at schools, synagogues and camps by hosting events that promote awareness. “We want to start conversations” she said, “because that’s where it has to begin: people talking about addiction, where they’re seeing it and how substances are being used and abused.”
Calls for assistance are beginning to come in as Denham reaches out to Lower Mainland addiction service providers, psychologists and counselors to inform them that JACS exists and the kind of support it offers.
“We want to let people in the Jewish community know that there will be services that incorporate their traditions and values, and acknowledge that some of their circumstances may be unique,” she explained. If someone needs to enter a treatment facility, JACS would like to ensure they have access to kosher food and rabbinical support, if they want it. When they’re exiting such facilities, JACS can offer help on moving back to the community safely, and on how to attend Jewish events that may incorporate alcohol, for example.
Denham, an Ottawa native with 15 years’ experience in mental health, addiction and youth at risk, moved to Vancouver in 2010 and worked with Jewish Family Service Agency in its mental health outreach program. She is available to take calls for appointments Monday through Thursday, 9 a.m.-1 p.m.
JACS Vancouver will offer some of the programs provided by JACS Toronto, founded some 15 years ago. There are other JACS programs in cities including Winnipeg, Seattle and Chicago, and Denham is looking forward to partnering with Jewish services across North America and emulating some of their successful programs.
JACS Vancouver’s funders include the Jewish Community Foundation, the Betty Averbach Foundation, the Diamond Foundation, the Kahn Foundation, the Al Roadburg Foundation and the Snider Foundation, as well as private donors. For more information, call 778-882-2994 or email [email protected].
Lauren Kramer, an award-winning writer and editor, lives in Richmond. To read her work online, visit laurenkramer.net.
Alcohol use in Canada – data from Health Canada
The following are excerpts on alcohol use from the Canadian Alcohol and Drug Use Monitoring Survey, which was an annual general population survey of alcohol and illicit drug use among Canadians aged 15 years and older that ran from 2008 through 2012. There is much more information contained in this survey, which can be accessed at hc-sc.gc.ca/hc-ps/drugs-drogues/stat/_2012/summary-sommaire-eng.php. The Independent was referred to it by Rebecca Denham, director of services for Jewish Addiction Community Service of Vancouver.
In 2012, 78.4% of Canadians reported drinking alcohol in the past year. Similar to previous years, in 2012, a higher percentage of males than females reported past-year alcohol use (82.7% versus 74.4%, respectively) while the prevalence of past-year drinking among adults aged 25 years and older (80%) was higher than among youth (70%).
In November 2011, the Canadian federal, provincial and territorial health ministers received Canada’s Low-Risk Alcohol Drinking Guidelines, which consist of five guidelines and a series of tips. Low-risk drinking guideline 1 (chronic) is defined as people who drink “no more than 10 drinks a week for women, with no more than two drinks a day most days and 15 drinks a week for men, with no more than three drinks a day most days. Plan non-drinking days every week to avoid developing a habit.” Low-risk drinking guideline 2 (acute) is defined as those who drink “no more than three drinks (for women) or four drinks (for men) on any single occasion. Plan to drink in a safe environment. Stay within the weekly limits outlined [in guideline 1].”
In 2012, among people who consumed alcohol in the past 12 months, 18.6% (representing 14.4% of the total population) exceeded guideline 1 for chronic effects and 12.8% (9.9% of the total population) exceeded guideline 2 for acute effects. A higher percentage of males than females drank in patterns that exceeded both guidelines.
The guidelines were exceeded by youth aged 15 to 24 years at higher rates than among adults aged 25 years and older. One in four (24.4%) youth drinkers versus 17.6% of adult drinkers exceeded the guideline for chronic risk, while the acute-risk guideline was exceeded by 17.9% of youth drinkers and 11.9% of adult drinkers.
In 2012, for the first time, CADUMS asked about four harms people may have experienced in the past 12 months due to someone else’s alcohol use. Types of harm include being verbally abused, feeling threatened, being emotionally hurt or neglected and being physically hurt. One in seven (14.2%) Canadians aged 15 years and older experienced at least one of these harms as a result of another person’s drinking. Verbal abuse was the harm reported by the largest percentage of Canadians (8.9%), followed by being emotionally hurt or neglected (7.1%) and feeling threatened (6.3%), while being physically hurt was experienced by 2.2%.