Thursday, 5 November 2015

Grieving Moms on Harm Reduction

Left to right: Ronnie Power, organizer and addictions advocate; Donna May, mumsDU panellist; Petra Schulz, mumsDU panellist; Barb MacKay, attendee; Rose Barbour, organizer and addictions advocate; Donald MacPherson, Director of Canadian Drug Policy Coalition and event sponsor

Our Harm Reduction: A Family Focus panel presentation on October 29th was a very powerful event. Our room at the Reach Centre was packed. Outside, we filled two parking lots. Our panel members were knowledgeable and experienced. Our audience was engaged. We couldn’t have asked for anything more.

The stigma with harm reduction and addiction treatment programs is deadly. Ronnie Power (co-organizer) and I have known many people who felt rushed to come off of their addictions medication (methadone, suboxone) or who felt they had to hide that they were on medications instead of being able to fully embrace and celebrate their new life in recovery. Some would even go so far as to tell them "you're not clean" or "you've just traded one drug for another."

This pressure on individuals to come off of the very medication that is saving their lives can lead to relapse and/or death. There are other harm reduction programs that are also stigmatized despite the important work that they do. This is why we chose harm reduction as the topic of discussion.

There are many harms associated with drug and alcohol use that affect individuals, families and communities. Harm reduction reduces these harms through evidence-based solutions.  Not everyone is able to obtain abstinence right away so we have to meet them where they’re at. As Tom Adams, Addictions System Navigator, said in his presentation, “Abstinence says we can’t help you unless you give it all up whereas harm reduction says ‘come on in and we’ll help you with that problem that has been giving you so much grief’.”

Both of our moms, Donna and Petra, feel that if they had known about or understood harm reduction programs better their children might still be alive today. Petra shared, “Had we not pushed him so much to get off things and on with life, it would have maybe given him a better chance. Harm reduction is one of the greatest kept secrets. If there is a message that I have for parents it is to keep them safe so they can make a better decision on another day.” Donna feels that her tough love approach caused her to miss some pivotal moments where she could have helped to set a new path for her daughter, which may have resulted in a different outcome. This is why they travel the country to educate. They don't want another family to have to bury a loved one because they don't have the right information.

Thank you to our major sponsor the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition (CDPC) and our other sponsors mumsDU, SMARTRecovery PEI, and the Reach Centre.  This event was part of a cross Canada conversation on drug policy and harm reduction that the CDPC has started this fall.

Thank you to our panel members: Donald MacPherson, Director, Canadian Drug Policy Coalition, Donna May, mumsDU, Petra Schulz, mumsDU, Ann Marie Carr, Public Health Nursing, Needle Exchange Program and Tom Adams, Addictions System Navigator.

Here is the entire presentation that was taped by Pat Martel. Please watch and share.

Please click here to listen to the interview that Donna May from mumsDU and I did on CBC’s Island Morning.

Here are some photos from the evening.

Thank you to those who came out to the presentation, our fabulous volunteers, and to the visitors on my blog for reading about it and watching the video. Together, we can end the stigma and save lives.