Addiction treatment curbs crime: PANL

Andrew Robinson
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Pharmacists’ association calls on province to address root cause of robberies

The Pharmacists’ Association of Newfoundland and Lab-rador (PANL) is calling on the provincial government to address the ongoing issue of robberies at pharmacies by enhancing addiction treatment services.

“We think we need to start asking for more services that can help (drug addicts), because the only thing that can stop these robberies from occurring — and they’re going to increase — is when addiction programs are effective,” said Stephen Reid, PANL’s executive director.

That call for action comes hot on the heels of several robberies at pharmacies on the Avalon Peninsula.

In all cases, the robbers were looking for prescription drugs.

Two men targeted The Prescription Shoppe in St. John’s last Monday, eventually leaving the store with an undisclosed amount of prescription drugs.

Two days later, a man carrying an object that appeared to be a handgun robbed Kennedy’s Family Drugs PharmaChoice in Bay Bulls, leaving the scene on a motorcycle. The RCMP said a large quantity of prescription drugs was stolen.

Police have since recovered the motorcycle, but no arrests had been made as of The Telegram’s Sunday deadline.

An attempted robbery at Villa Nova Pharmacy in Conception Bay South also reportedly involved a firearm, while the second male suspect in that incident carried a hammer, according to the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary. No drugs were taken, but a man in the store suffered what police described as minor injuries.

According to Reid, there’s a six-month wait period for addiction treatment in Newfoundland and Labrador.

“People that are having addiction problems, they’re not going to wait six months,” he said. “They have to fuel their addictions, so whatever they’re going to do to get it done, they’re going to do.”

As a public safety issue, Reid believes there are multiple stakeholders at play. As those who commit such crimes become bolder, he worries that it won’t be just pharmacists that are targeted, but also customers or other employees.

In the case of Thursday’s attempted robbery at the pharmacy in C.B.S., Reid said a hammer was used to hit a security guard.

“There’s a security measure that was put in place by a pharmacy owner, and it still didn’t stop the guy from coming in,” he said.

“We don’t want (customers) to feel unsafe when they go into their local pharmacy just to ask a question from a licensed health-care practitioner.”

The responsibility of government also came up in a Telegram story published over the weekend. In it, the former owner of Kennedy’s Family Drugs PharmaChoice, Tom Kennedy, said that both the province and pharmacy associations needs to be proactive rather than reactive before someone gets hurt as the result of a robbery.

He suggested prescription narcotics should be moved out of pharmacies and instead be kept in a central location.

PANL is set to meet with members of the RNC on Tuesday to address the increased frequency of robberies across the province.

Efforts are already underway to construct new youth addiction treatment centres in Grand Falls-Windsor and Paradise, and the province has also announced plans to operate an adult treatment centre in Harbour Grace.

Twitter: @TeleAndrew


Organizations: Association of Newfoundland and Lab, The Prescription Shoppe, RCMP Villa Nova Pharmacy

Geographic location: Bay Bulls, Newfoundland and Labrador, Grand Falls-Windsor

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