UCCM Police and Manitoulin Drug Strategy team up for online workshop series to help with mental health and addictions, overdoses

·3 min read

There is another epidemic underway at the same time as the COVID-19 pandemic and that is the ongoing opioid crisis. Incidences of substance use have risen across the country since the start of the pandemic, with numbers of overdoses and deaths attributed to opioids rising to crisis levels. Manitoulin Island is not exempt from this trend, said Daughness Migwans, social navigator for the UCCM Anishnaabe Police Service. The opioid epidemic is, in fact, the initial inspiration for a new community safety series of online workshops she is coordinating.

“We are partners with the Manitoulin Drug Strategy Team,” said Ms. Migwans, “and during discussions we asked, ‘what information can we share with the public?’ ‘What other types of education can we provide that can help those struggling with mental health and addictions issues?’”

The series of five online Zoom community safety workshops was developed with these concerns in mind. In the first workshop, which took place on Thursday, February 25, participants learned about the Good Samaritan Act. The local Crown Attorney explained important details in the Act and how it is meant to save lives.

“People may be worried about calling for help and they may be worried about getting into trouble,” she said, noting the Good Samaritan Act is intended to reduce the fear of police attending overdose events and encourages people to help save lives during an overdose. See future editions of The Expositor for a full story on this workshop.

The second event in the series brings Sudbury Rainbow Crime Stoppers to the conversation. “People may have a general reluctance to call police. They don’t want to jeopardize their relationships with their families and neighbours. CrimeStoppers is a service that’s a viable option,” Ms. Migwans said.

“Another big conversation we have internally is what it’s like for people when they have to call 911,” she said. Week three in the series is unique in that it lets participants hear from a call taker and dispatcher from the OPP Call Centre. “People call our number but might get forwarded to the OPP dispatcher,” said Ms. Migwans. “They’ll always ask, ‘why?’ ‘Why does the dispatcher ask so many questions?’ ‘Why do they need to know all about me?’ ‘Why are they taking up so much time?’ ‘Why don’t they just get out here?’” The dispatcher will explain their background and education and provide answers for their questions.

Number four in the series looks at harm reduction and overdose prevention with guests from Sudbury’s Reseau Access Network. Access addresses mental health and offers timely access to necessary supports and provides harm reduction services, overdose prevention through Naloxone training and distribution as well as education, awareness and prevention as well as other services. This workshop is not just for people with mental health or addiction issues, said Ms. Daughness. It is for anyone who might be affected or who need to know the signs of crisis, addiction or overdose.

Participants will be introduced to members of the Manitoulin Drug Strategy Team in the final workshop. “A lot of people don’t know what agencies are involved or what kind of services they provide,” explained Ms. Migwans. This workshop will put faces to unknown community helpers and how they provide assistance as well as share how being part of the Strategy Team supports work being done across the Island.

The workshops are open to anyone who would like to participate. “There’s been a lot of interest from outside of the First Nations communities we service, and that’s great,” she said. Wellness takes a community.

The series is being held for five Thursdays, beginning February 25 and ending March 25. Workshops start at 12:15 pm and will last approximately one hour each. For further information or to register, send an email to daughness.mmigwans@uccmpolice.com with the subject line: Sign me up for the Zoomies.

Lori Thompson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Manitoulin Expositor