NESI and International Women’s Day

This week I was provided with a tour of the Needle Exchange and Safer Inhalation (NESI) Program at Somerset West Community Health Centre. I was interested in this program because I have only been exposed to substance use programs that are abstinence based. NESI is a program that offers harm reduction services to individuals that use substances. These harm reduction options include safer inhalation and injection supplies, collection and disposal of the equipment, and support through peers. The safer inhalation and injection supplies are distributed directly from staff when individuals visit the drop-in room, as well as through a vending machine outside the building. The vending machine is funded through the city of Ottawa and individuals are provided with tokens in the drop- in center to be able to acquire the supplies that are needed; each kit contains an additional token so individuals can continue to obtain supplies without having to receive a token from the drop-in centre. The drop-in centre also held various activities such as a monthly breakfast, fajita nights, peer groups, and computers for individuals to use. NESI also provides support in a non-judgmental environment, harm reduction education, advocacy, and referrals to medical services. I attempted to get photos of the vending machines but the light was not great at that time of day, I hope to be in that area again to be able to finally get a picture!

I also attended a SMART Recovery meeting in Brockville, Ontario last week. I have attended Alcoholics Anonymous meetings in the past but this was my first SMART Recovery meeting.SMART Recovery discusses how to change self-defeating thinking, behavior, and emotion; hearing individuals thoughts as process to change these behaviors was interesting and inspiring to see.

Cornerstone Housing for Women, MacLaren Street location, celebrated International Women’s Day by having a big breakfast for the residents. There was also the opportunity for women to have a photograph of theirself by a professional photographer. For International Women’s Day, I took on the task of creating compliment bags where residents were asked to write positive comments about each other, which were then distributed to the women in the house. As Cornerstone is an agency that serves only women, International Women’s Day provided an opportunity to celebrate the women who resident at Cornerstone.

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Bronson Centre Tour and Winterlude Outing

Winterlude

Happy Valentine’s Day blog readers!

I started a healthy relationship group at my field placement last week. We completed a craft, discussed some topics that will be conversed about within the group, and what the members hoped to get out of the group. Two residents attended, which was more than I expect in regards to participation, and I am hoping that additional residents attend this week’s session. Attendance is one of the roadblocks to establishing and maintaining a group within the house. The group members requested to discuss respect and trust within relationships, which will be the topics for this week’s group.

I also had a tour of the Bronson Centre within the past couple of weeks. The Bronson Centre is a community of 40 non-profit agencies and charities within the Ottawa community. Their services range from a food bank, mental health support, substance use support, music lessons for children, a wood working shop that refurbishes furniture for a small fee, a variety of concerts, as well as many other services. The Bronson Centre building used to be a school and was converted into the centre to provide support to the Ottawa community. When speaking with the director of the centre he stated that it was a social enterprise in which organizations or individuals pay for room rentals for various events such as self-help meetings, baby showers, weddings, private events, and concerts. This allows for the cost to remain low for the non-profit and charity organizations that are currently tenants. The small town that I come from in Northern New York does not have this type of support in the community and it was amazing to see the variety of services and positive impact that these services have on the community.

Winterlude was happening last week in Ottawa and there was an outing planned for the residents that I had the opportunity to attend. There were three individuals from MacLaren, the house that I have my placement in. An individual from the Booth Street location and a student from another university that was completing her placement also attended. Winterlude is a festival that runs for a couple of weeks in February and has various locations throughout the city. Activities of Winterlude range from snow playgrounds, skating and sports events, concerts and performances, as well as snow and ice sculpture competitions. We attended the location that had the snow and ice sculptures and were able to view the amazing artistry of individuals from all across the globe, I will be posting pictures of some of the sculptures that we saw. I have never attended this event before and am happy that I finally had the opportunity, especially with the women from Cornerstone.

One of the amazing ice sculptures

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January Update

Happy New Year everyone!

This month marks the return to my field placement after a lovely winter break spent in Canada and the United States.

There are a few changes that have occurred at my field placement since last semester. One of these changes is that my task supervisor has changed, as the previous one transferred to one of the other locations at Cornerstone. So far, this has not seemed to have impacted my field placement and the tasks that I have been assigned. I will be continuing to run a cooking group and will be implementing a new group which will be surrounding the topic of healthy relationships. I am excited to start this group, as well as develop and adapt it to the individuals that attend. There are twenty women that reside at MacLaren, so learning and developing skills surrounding conflict management, boundaries, and mutual respect, as well as other traits, will be beneficial in maintaining a supportive environment.

One of the events that I have planned and participated in this month is an agency outing with all three Cornerstone locations to The Byward Market, specifically to taste BeaverTails and visit with the women from the shelter and Booth Street locations. BeaverTails are fried dough pastries that are created to look like a beavertail and can be topped with a variety of sweet condiments. There was even a BeaverTail flavor that was created in honor of Obama’s visit to Ottawa entitled the “Obama Tail.” The Byward Market area is a popular destination in downtown Ottawa, especially in the summer where there are an abundance of venders lining the streets. As a child, I would visit The Byward Market in the summer and purchase the most beautiful flowers for my grandmother as well as take in all the various items that were displayed. I had the opportunity to meet some of the other women that receive services through Cornerstone as well as some of the other interns during this outing.

One of the upcoming outings that MacLaren will be engaging in is Winterlude, an annual Ottawa event, and will have an upcoming post regarding the event.

I hope all students and facility that are reading have a wonderful start to their semester!

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Harm Reduction Services

I am going to focus this post on a few of the harm reduction services that I have encountered and have been educated about for individual’s that use substances in the Ottawa area.

Growing up in Northern New York the only harm reduction services that I have been exposed to are the use of medication assisted therapies such as methadone and buprenorphine, in my experiences many of the programs in Northern New York are abstinence based. For those of you from bigger cities, though pretty much anywhere is bigger than the town I grew up in, there may be more options regarding harm reduction strategies. I find it eye opening and interesting to gain knowledge of alternative treatments rather than just abstience based ones.

When I was receiving a tour of one of the supportive housing buildings through Cornerstone called Booth Street, I was introduced to a peer worker who mentioned that he was involved with a safe injection site that recently started within Ottawa. He explained to me that this was a pop-up site, that has not been approved by the city, which provided support and information to individuals that use their substances intravenously. Within the conversation, he mentioned that the city has not shut down the operation as of yet, though there have been complaints from community members. During the tour, I was also informed that Cornerstone Housing for Women’s Booth Street location has a partnership with Inner City Health that provides supervised injection counseling, monitoring for overdoses, as well as provides harm reduction supplies for injecting and inhalation. The peer worker provided me with his contact information to reach out if I was interested in seeing how one of these sites was run, this is one of the things that I hope to coordinate before I end my field placement.

Ottawa Public Health (OPH) has a Site Needle & Syringe Program in which they distribute supplies to aid in safer substance use, provide education on safer substance use, and refer individuals to appropriate social and health services. This program has been in effect since 1991 as a public health measure to prevent the spread of communicable diseases and minimize other risks associated with substance use (Harm Reduction Services, n.d.). I found it very interesting that this has been in effect since 1991, as there is still a lot of resistance to this harm reduction strategy.

One specific service that OPH offers that I have found very interesting is that many community health centres recently started providing the public with free access to sterile needles and crack pipes through vending machines. Individuals are provided with a token through programs held by OPH which provide them access to a choice of two kits from the vending machine (Lofaro, 2017). Upon returning to my field placement I am going to seek out one of the locations and update this post with a picture of one of the vending machines. I am attaching a link of the article that discusses this more in detail if anyone is interested: Vending Machines.

These are only a few of the programs and services that are offered within the Ottawa area and I will continue to post about others as I become educated about them. I think that providing the public with harm reduction services is important when working in the addiction field, it is important to meet individuals where they are, rather than set them up for failure from the start of their treatment through a one treatment fits all approach.

References:

Lofaro, J. (2017, September 16). Vending machines with clean pipes, needles for drug users open in Ottawa. CBC News. Retrieved from http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/ottawa/vending-machines-pipes-needles-drug-users-ottawa-1.4292284

Harm Reduction Services in Ottawa. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.ottawapublichealth.ca/en/public-health-topics/harm-reduction-services-in-ottawa.aspx#Program-goals-and-services

 

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Holiday Season!

Happy Holidays to everyone!

This season has been a blur for me filled with celebrations both in the United States and Canada, due to having family in both countries.

My field placement, Cornerstone Housing for Women, was just starting to get into the holiday spirit when I left for the winter break. I was saddened to be leaving around that time and missed the holiday party that was the day after I left to return to the United States. Every year 515 MacLaren, the location of my placement, has a Christmas party in which all residents, resident’s family and friends, and staff are invited. There is an individual that provides musical entertainment, the living area is decorated very nicely for the occasion, and the women prepare an abundance of food for the occasion.

When I was riding the bus to the Rideau Centre (the mall in downtown Ottawa) with a resident to go to Hudson Bay (a major department store in Canada) we saw the Parliament Hill ice skating rink being assembled. Through my many years of visiting the Ottawa area I do not remember skating on this rink or the Rideau Canal and I hope to experience at least one of these this winter season. Upon returning home from my Canadian family Christmas last night I heard on the radio station that a children’s hockey tournament was being cancelled that was supposed to occur there. Apparently not just for the reason of the danger of the air being too cold but ice can become too cold to skate on, you know it’s cold when Canadians can’t play hockey outside!

Most of my holiday was spent in the U.S., I have family that visits from Kentucky every year. One of the most eventful things that happened during their visit was their polar swim in the St. Lawrence River in 2 degree temperature on Christmas. Yesterday I headed back to Ottawa for my Canadian family’s yearly Christmas celebration. I see this side of the family about two times a year so I always cherish every moment I get to spend with them.

I wish for everyone’s holiday season to have and continue to be filled with love, joy, and warmth!

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Orientation

I have been at my field placement for a little over two months now! Since I haven’t updated everyone on my orientation process for Cornerstone Housing for Women, I thought that this subject would be the focus of today’s blog post.

On my first day, I met with my field educator and was assigned to be the “link” to four different residents. The “link” is the go to person for a specific resident in regards to any of their concerns, completing assessments, and updates on paperwork such as treatment plans. I was told that the residents I am linked to are four of the more difficult ones at 515 MacLaren, this made me a bit nervous at first but I also appreciated that they felt that I could handle the caseload. I was provided some background information on the four residents that I am linked to and then introduced to them. Through my experiences, I have found that reading files or gaining information about a client beforehand is not always the best course of action, due to the causation of preconceived notions about an individual that may not always be correct.

The most shocking part of my orientation surrounded medication. In agencies that I have been employed or have interned at in the past I either was not allowed to dispense medications, as a nurse was responsible, or I had to go through extensive training(s). At my current placement agency, the process was explained and demonstrated to me and I gave medication to residents about fifteen minutes later. The amount of responsibility that goes into dispensing medications has always been emphasized in past agencies and I have honestly always been concerned about giving out medications in fear of not doing it correctly. However, I had a staff member on standby if needed which decreased my anxiety surrounding the entire process, I also appreciate how there didn’t seem to be so much pressure surrounding this task.

I was able to have tours of the other supportive housing building in Cornerstone Housing for Women which is called Booth, as well as the shelter, which has been the first stop for many of the women receiving housing though Cornerstone. I was able to have a conversation with a nurse from Ottawa Inner City Health regarding their harm reduction services that are provided to the residents. I am interested in gaining knowledge about the addiction field in Canada vs. the U.S. as I have worked in the addiction field in the past and am currently taking courses in hopes of obtaining my CASAC. For anyone who is interested in harm reduction for individuals with addictions, Inner City Health is a great resource to check out, as I feel that many of their approaches are quite progressive. In the future, I plan on creating a blog post that is focused on the differences I have experienced in working with individuals with addictions in Northern New York and Ottawa, ON.

Thank you for reading!

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First post

When I discuss my field placement with individuals, I have always placed international within quotation marks. When reflecting on the meaning for those quotations I have two reasoning’s; I feel like Canadian and American cultures are very similar and as a dual citizen to Canada and the States I do not feel that this is a true international experience for me. However, I have realized that though I visit Ottawa frequently, I have not gained a significant amount of knowledge, immersed myself, or have experienced the differences between these cultures due to normalizing my own life experiences within these two countries. Also, though the cultures are similar I feel that there are still differences especially in regards to their social policies. I have realized that my international field placement is an opportunity to explore and gain insight into a city that I have always taken for granted.

Ottawa is a very diverse city culturally, which can be attributed to the individuals who have immigrated to Canada from various countries. The shelter through Cornerstone Housing for Women provides services to many of these individuals with their commitment to assisting in addressing the homeless population concerns.

I am completing my placement in one of the supportive housing environments through Cornerstone Housing for Women and have spent the past month getting acquainted with the residents and the agency’s expectations of me for the school year. I have been running a weekly group for three weeks, which is a cooking group to help develop skills and independence. I have been linked to four residents within the house, meaning I am the go to person that they can connect with on a one to one basis, and have been working on establishing rapport with these individuals.

On a personal note moving back to Canada entails moving in with my father, stepmother, and two half-siblings. I appreciate the opportunity to complete my placement in Canada because it means that I also get to be more involved in the daily lives of my siblings, who are in their teens.

Currently, I am splitting my time between Ottawa and Northern New York (my hometown). The travel time between places is about an hour and half, this allows me to stay connected and be supported by my loved in both locations.

Within the upcoming week, I will be headed further north in Ontario to my family’s cottage to celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving. This is one of my favorite holidays and I look forward to connecting with family members that I only get to visit with about twice a year.

For my upcoming blog posts, I hope to share the similarities and differences that I experience professionally and personally between Canada and the U.S.

Thank you for joining me for my first post!

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