Sask. crystal meth problem needs dedicated strategy, says drug education cop

A Saskatoon police officer who runs a drug education program for Saskatchewan schools says the province’s plan to consider crystal meth solutions as part of an opioids task force is “out of touch” with the realities of the problem.

'This is an area where we need to get experimental,' says Const. Matt Ingrouille

Const. Matt Ingrouille spent five years on the drug squad with the Saskatoon Police Service. He now works with the gang section and runs the Say Know drug education program for young people. (Don Somers/CBC)

A Saskatoon police officer who runs a drug education program for Saskatchewan schools says the province's plan to consider crystal meth solutions as part of an opioids task force is "out of touch." 

Const. Matt Ingrouille says the province needs a dedicated crystal meth task force. Currently, the task force is focused on opioids.

"It should be specific to crystal meth and, I mean, that right there shows how out of touch they are with the true issues in our communities," he said.

Ingrouille is an officer with the Saskatoon Police Service gangs unit who previously worked in the drug unit and on patrol in the core neighbourhoods. 

He is also the founder of an anti-drug education program called Say Know, which tours Saskatchewan and introduces teens to former addicts and dealers.

The number of crystal meth possession charges laid by the Saskatoon Police Service has grown by seven times in three years, from 36 in 2013 to 278 last year.

Data from the Ministry of Health shows the number of people reporting crystal meth usage at the point of admission to drug treatment services jumped 200 per cent from 2015 to 2016.

The province says it is too early to say if a new task force will be created to focus specifically on crystal meth.

"[The new task force] is being implemented right now and it is too early to say how much of their focus would be for opioids versus crystal meth," a provincial spokesperson said in an email.

"I think it would be premature to think that any single drug would be viewed in isolation. 

"I think that we will want to allow that task force to come together, and consider its mandate, before considering any separate task forces."

'Don't just go with the status quo'

Const. Ingrouille believes a dedicated strategy for crystal meth is the only way to address the province's growing problem.

He wants to see the same industry stakeholders involved in the opioids task force — police, education workers, ministry representatives and health care workers — working on crystal meth. Addicts should also be included, he said.

"Put them in a room together and say we're not leaving, we're locking the door, we're going to come up with a list of solutions that we are going to put in place," said Const. Ingrouille.

"This is an area where we need to get experimental, don't just go with the status quo ... but sitting here and doing what we've done for the last 20 years and treating it the same as everything else, it's just going to perpetuate the problem."

Target 'demand', says cop

Ingrouille says he started Say Know because he believes addressing drug problems in Saskatchewan requires a new approach that targets "demand" as well as enforcement.

He wants to see root causes such as trauma, lack of opportunity and education addressed to reduce the number of people who turn to crystal meth. 

"In a province like Saskatchewan … we have a lot of residential school impact, a lot of pain, a lot of people living in family environments [where] they aren't living a very enriched life, where they aren't getting a lot of positive stimulation from an early age," he said.

"These people have a lower dopamine system."

Pointing to research from Dr. Gabor Maté, an addictions specialist who works in Vancouver's downtown eastside, Ingrouille said people in those types of situations are more likely to crave stimulants like crystal meth.

Province has outreach, support services 

He believes more facilities and programs for youth would play a major role in reducing the number of young people who turn to crystal meth.

Some northern First Nations, including the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, have been working toward building facilities such as a wellness health centre.

The province said it currently provides outreach and outpatient services to youth and their families, including in-patient treatment beds in Saskatoon and Prince Albert, and beds at a youth detox centre in Regina.

A spokesperson for the province said further information about outreach and addictions services in the north was not available by CBC's deadline on Friday afternoon.