FORT FRANCES—The Rainy River District Substance Abuse Prevention Team, along with its partners, participated in a two-day workshop last week learning about the “Prevent Alcohol and Risk-Related Trauma in Youth” (P.A.R.T.Y.) program.
Leona Liski, co-ordinator of P.A.R.T.Y. Secretariat, and Darlene Grabo, both from Alberta, offered information on the program, which is set to be implemented at Fort Frances High School this fall.
Students taking Grade 10 civic classes will spend a day (about five hours) touring La Verendrye Hospital here.
“It’s about injury prevention and choice-making,” Liski explained. “The students will see things and do things to learn what it’s like to be an injury survivor.”
She said the program, which operates in more than 70 sites throughout the U.S., Canada, and Australia, focuses on issues pertinent to teenagers and is very “hands-on.”
“They may have a volunteer get strapped to a back board to show what happens if you are in a car crash,” Liski said, adding there also will be tours of the Emergency Room and Intensive Care Unit at La Verendrye.
“It’s very visual,” she noted. “We want to make it as real as possible . . . not to scare them, but to show what could happen. How your life could change in a heartbeat.”
The students will eat lunch at the hospital, but they will do so as though they have a brain or spinal cord injury.
Using a neck brace and a special mask with a toilet paper roll attached to simulate tunnel vision, the participants will try to eat without the use of their fingers.
Some may have to be fed and they will take turns.
“It’s meant to be fun and to get them to think about what it’s like to live that way,” Liski remarked. “It’s very powerful.”
The students also will get some Rehabilitation information and hear from some real injury survivors.
“And, hopefully, they’ll have a newfound understanding of the difficulties,” noted Hugh Dennis, co-ordinator of the local Substance Abuse Prevention Team.
“They will learn about making good choices and the rest is up to them,” he explained. “Maybe they don’t get in the car with a drunk driver, maybe they don’t speed.”
Liski said because the program focuses on making good choice, they refrain from using the word “accident.”
She noted an accident is an act of fate—something individuals have no control over. But these types of injuries and injury-related deaths are predictable and preventable.
She also said hearing from injury survivors is a very important part of the program.
“There’s so much going on during the day, but when the [survivors] speak, you could hear a pin drop—the kids are mesmerized,” she remarked.
Dennis noted facts and statistics sometimes go over their head, but when it’s about real life, they really start to listen.
The SAPT is looking for local brain or spinal cord injury survivors who would be willing to make a presentation. Those interested should contact Dennis at 274-9827.
The P.A.R.T.Y. program has been operating since 1992 and it was decided it was a good time to get it started in Rainy River District.
“There’s a lot of injury prevention going on right now and we’re seeing more of these issues coming out,” said local paramedic John Beaton, who also is a member of the SAPT board.
“I hope it makes them think twice before doing anything stupid—think before you act,” stressed Tyler Yatchuk, a local medical first responder.
Dennis said it’s a good program for Grade 10 students because it’s just before they start driving and right when they are experiencing choices they’ve never had before.
And he indicated Fort High is on board with the program.
“They understand the issues and are very supportive,” Dennis said, adding he’s very excited about getting the P.A.R.T.Y. going here this fall.