MHPSD partners with Our Collective Journey

A new partnership between the Medicine Hat Public School Division and Our Collective Journey will focus in on addiction and mental health for middle and high schools.

The approach will consider not only the students who might be struggling and carry their trauma with them to school, but also their families.

“It’s a brand-new thing and exciting for everyone involved. This is a huge deal and big things are going to come,” said MHPSD superintendent Mark Davidson. “We are not aware of this being done anywhere else, might be the first partnership of its kind.”

OCJ will provide a space where students and their parents or guardians can receive support, helping both groups find a path at the same time. OCJ and MHPSD have been communicating for about a year around creating the partnership.

“We know school jurisdictions across the province and North America are struggling with rising levels of mental health and addiction,” added Davidson. “The old tools that have been available to us aren’t doing everything we need them to do. We are trying to find more ways to help get people the tools or create new ones. I’m excited about this step.”

Recovery coach with OCJ Tara Schneider-Pichette explained first step was introducing themselves to teachers and staff by giving presentations in all the schools. They are now doing smaller presentations to students. OCJ will have at least one recovery coach in schools each day, and that is where the connections will happen.

“They can share their story,” said Schneider-Pichette. “And we’ll know how they are feeling. There are quite a few of us who started our journey with drugs, alcohol and suicidal ideations at a young age. Most people will open up when they know someone else has been through it rather than hide it and hold it within themselves. We talk to them without judging and shaming.”

A large part of the presentation is providing clarity around what a recovery coach does, which isn’t therapy or intervention. They help a person ‘path find,’ how to get from here to where they want to be and who they need to talk to for the care they need.

“(Recovery coaches) are a safe place to go to get useful information and share with someone who can listen without judgement and empathize in a different way than people who haven’t lived it,” said Davidson.

“We want to be on a lived experience platform and share what we did in that situation to cope and get out and look forward in life,” said Schneider-Pichette,

“Recovery coaches at OCJ are partners with professionals who do that other work (therapy and intervention) so that we are not trying to step in and do things we aren’t intended to do,” stated Davidson. “We are working to build a bridge between a kid, wherever they are at, and the supports they need, and these folks (OCJ) are well-trained and supervised and properly motivated, heart-driven humans that will make that work.”

SAMANTHA JOHNSON, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Medicine Hat News