Educating school kids about the dangers of drug abuse is only one job for new RCMP Community Resource Officer (CRO) Constable John McNickle.
Sgt. Phil Penny of the Stettler RCMP detachment introduced McNickle to Stettler Town Council at their Sept. 20 regular meeting. McNickle was stationed in Valleyview previously and hails from Ontario originally.
The position of CRO is jointly funded by the town, Stettler County and Clearview School Division. As well as teaching the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) program to students, the CRO assists schools with talks on internet safety, Halloween safety and any other safety subjects teachers wish to introduce.
According to McNickle, the detachment is looking at introducing another program to supplement D.A.R.E. that covers internet safety, social media usage and other technology that D.A.R.E. doesn’t cover.
The D.A.R.E. program, which was started in 1983 in Los Angeles as a drug prevention program for youth and is now used in over 54 countries including Canada and the U.S., has come under scrutiny as to its effectiveness in long term prevention of drug abuse among youth. The program is taught to Grades 5 and 6 students.
Both Penny and McNickle would like to see an expanded program become an ongoing component of school curriculum in the hopes that a long term program will see better results.
Penny stated the detachment will work on gathering information throughout this year in hopes of presenting a supplemental plan to schools next year.
As McNickle explained, having the CRO in schools helps to build positive relationships with students over time. The proactive approach to policing, such as educating youth about the dangers of drugs, can help to minimize reactive policing (being arrested for drug offences) later.
The provincial government has committed to an $8 million investment in Stettler Hospital over the next three years.
Council reviewed a news release that reiterated previous announcements by Minister of Health Sarah Hoffman that Stettler Hospital will receive the money for renovations to the birthing area, kitchen facilities and emergency department.
The design for the projects will begin in 2017 with all construction being completed by 2021.
Mayor Dick Richards remarked that the provincial response was in part due to the hard work and dedication of many people in the community to maintaining and improving the Stettler Hospital.