The Support Not Stigma (SNS) initiative is a $1.34M grant funded by Health Canada's Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP), to provide people who use substances and experience significant mental health challenges with "A Hand Up", rather than a hand out, supports for the people who love them, and training for the people who work with them. Informed by the Integrated Care Hub (ICH)’s 2021 Needs Assessment, the initiative is about bettering the wellness of people in our community who are impacted by substance use.
HARM REDUCTION is foundational to SNS!
Philosophically, the initiative is about restorative social justice for people in our community who use substances. Harm Reduction refers to a spectrum of strategies to help people who use substances by meeting them “where they are at.”
Using a Social Justice framework, we seek to engage workers in Dialogical Action, to expose the stigma against people experiencing mental health and substance use challenges who find themselves under housed or homeless, and to critically reflect on systems change to address potentially morally injurious events in our work and as experienced by clients.
Each month we engage with keynote experts, people with lived and living experience, and each other through break-out groups and a plenary discussion focused on acknowledging the challenges we face and then problem solving on how to work within a low-barrier model, including self-reflection and anti-oppression approaches, harm-reduction protocols, and trauma and violence informed care. Of particular importance, we will explore how to address moral injury, to others and self, and how reflexivity can help to maintain wellness in this demanding work environment. This program is available to ICH workers and to all who work with people who use substances within Kingston.
A vocational program has evolved out of the Community Support Program successfully piloted at the ICH, which engages and pays people with lived and living experience (PWLLE) to provide and receive support within the ICH community. In partnership with ReStart Kingston, vocational workers first undergo a two-week work readiness-training program. Then they move into one of three paid internship programs for emerging social enterprises, a symbiotic partnership with Lionhearts Inc. The first is a Food Service Vocational Program, where workers train under a sous-chef in food preparation, dishwashing, etc. The second is a Laundry Service Vocational Program, where workers train with an experienced janitorial superintendent to provide laundry services for the ICH and other clients on a fee-for-service basis. Finally, there is a Building Maintenance Vocational Program, to provide janitorial services for the ICH and other properties in the community on a fee-for-service basis.
The Community Support Program will be expanded at the ICH, with a dedicated coordinator, work readiness training from ReStart, as well as funding to pay CSP workers to attend the specialized training program.
By creating an inviting space at 218 Concession Street, we seek to develop the talents of people who use substances by engaging them in arts and crafts. Similar programming for Indigenous Peoples will provide them with opportunities to learn cultural teachings and crafts, as well as engage in Ceremony.
Family support and repair counselling will be offered to patrons of the ICH and their families in the hopes of repairing connections and community. It will also be offered by referral through community service agencies to young people aged 12 to 19 whose mental health is impacted by a parent’s substance use.
Our regional anti-stigma campaign and education initiative will dovetail into a broader SUPPORT NOT STIGMA initiative with the KFL & A Community Drug Strategy. Testimonies from people with lived and living experience of dependent substance use will be featured in a multi-media campaign.
In spring of 2023, we will launch a research program to better understand the underserved population of women under 30 who use substances, but do not engage with the ICH or other shelter, health and social services. A research coordinator will work in partnership with a variety of outreach workers who serve young women, like Youth Diversion. A better understanding of young women’s needs will inform advocacy and funding applications to provide them with the supports they need to remain safe and well.
Kingston, Ontario's Integrated Care Hub (2021) Needs Assessment came from interviews with 32 people living with mental and substance use challenges who may also have been experiencing homelessness: