Amanda Neilson, harm reduction consultant.

Four years ago, Algonquin introduced a new series of programs that was meant to help create a safe, non-judgmental environment at the college for students to talk about alcohol and drugs.

It was called the Umbrella Project.

Its goal is to help give kids the help and support they need without using negative enforcement such as guilt or shame to do so. This is done by having consultants make recommendations for policies and procedures at the college so that they reflect harm reduction principles.

This year however, the Umbrella Project is opening a new chapter as the partnership between Rideauwood addiction and family services and Algonquin ends.

Amanda Nielson, a harm-reduction consultant, helped get the program off the ground when it was just starting and will be leaving as the Umbrella Project takes a new road.

“What we’re hoping for is that it will be based on a more peer-to-peer model, so more students will get involved.”

Peer-to-peer counselling will make students more comfortable speaking about issues such as drug and alcohol usage as they are now speaking with people that are at similar times in their lives. This will further provide a non judgmental and empathetic environment to any student seeking help.

However, that doesn’t mean that the chosen peer counselors are going to be thrown into the fire without any support.

“We’re just waiting to find out about some funding,” said Neilson. “But students will be trained to be able to give information from a harm reduction approach.”

Neilson will be working full time with Rideauwood addiction and family services when she leaves Algonquin this year to continue spreading the message of harm reduction.