Some of the $1.4 million in new provincial funding for opioid awareness programs in Alberta may trickle down to Red Deer.
On Thursday the province announced grant funding for 29 projects involving video, art, social media and community events. Mustard Seed in Edmonton received $45,000 for a project that may be shared with Mustard Seed in Red Deer.
Landon Hildebrand, Mustard Seed housing director in Edmonton, said the money will be used to set up a council primarily of people with lived experience to help develop a social media campaign and information sessions to raise awareness and reduce the stigma.
Hildebrand said stigma is one of the biggest barriers to addressing the crisis.
“Stigma is going to keep you from accessing professional services. It’s going to hold you back from finding resources, such as harm reduction supplies, which are really going to be essential to making sure you stay alive,” Hildebrand said.
He said Mustard Seed wants to show the true face of the opioid crisis.
“It’s a lot more of a suburban concern which folks in Red Deer are quite aware of. This is something that’s happening to families. This is something that is happening to our community. It’s mom. It’s dad. It’s your brother, your sister. It’s your neighbour.”
People will start out with opioid prescriptions, lose access to prescriptions, then seek out street drugs without knowing the exact content of those drugs, he said.
“There is a lot of misunderstandings about what the opioid crisis looks like.”
Hildebrand said there’s already been some interest in holding information sessions in Red Deer.
Red Deer’s harm reduction agency Turning Point already puts on information sessions in Central Alberta and he said there will be some similarities. Many agencies are trying to take a co-ordinated approach.
Mustard Seed will be working to set up its social media campaign by August and hold at least six information sessions by the end of the year.
“We’re excited to be meeting people where they’re at no matter what their usage is, or what their experience is, and to really value them as persons and to help them see options for their lives.”