Canadian racing officials have formed a committee to develop a rehabilitation program for drug and alcohol abuse as part of the Ontario Racing Commission's regulatory structure. Representatives of the Horsemen's Benevolent and Protective Association, the Jockey's Benefit Association of Canada, the Ontario Harness Horse Association and the Ontario Horse Racing Industry Association are backing the effort. Under current guidelines, a horse racing industry participant caught under the influence of alcohol or drugs may be fined or penalized. The process does not require a mandatory rehabilitation program. The committee will also be looking at a more comprehensive approach to the issue of drug and alcohol abuse and incorporate prevention and awareness into the program. "The committee grew out of consultations that horsepeople's associations have had with the Ontario Racing Commission," said Nick Coukos, executive director of the HBPA . "We currently offer a number of programs that provide our members counseling and treatment referrals if they request it. We would like to see these rehabilitation programs incorporated into the ORC's rulings instead of substantive fines and penalties. "Our intent is to ensure that those who need assistance receive it. We are happy that the ORC has asked the industry, and horsepeople in particular, to lead the development of this program," Coukos continued.Irwin Driedger, managing secretary of the JBAC added, "Fines and penalties only lead to the reduction in someone's ability to earn a livelihood. If we are really going to assist them we need to make sure that they receive proper treatment and rehabilitation."Members of the committee include Coukos, Driedger and John Walzak, chief operating officer of OHHA. Wendy Rinella, executive director of OHRIA, will act as chairperson. Rob McKinney, director of investigations of the Ontario Racing Commission, will be represented ex-officio.The committee will also be supported by a panel of experts in the area of drug and Alcohol treatment. The panel includes Dr. Camille Frey, PhD., a licensed professional counselor, Dr. David Korn, an addiction specialist and public health physician, and Dr. Harvey Skinner, professor and the chair of the Department of Public Health Sciences University of Toronto.
"During the ORC consultation process, OHHA requested a blue chip panel of experts to assist in the development of the treatment and rehabilitation program. We are delighted that Dr. Frey, Dr. Korn and Dr. Skinner have agreed to assist us." said Walzak. "They bring a breadth of experience on alcohol and drug treatment and rehabilitation and we look forward to working with them."The committee will meet over the next few months then submit their recommendations to the ORC for their consideration.