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Umbrella Project prepares for opioid overdoses and addictions

As campus activities to kick off the Fall semester wind down, the battle against opioids and the fight for harm reduction continues.

According to data from the Public Health Agency of Canada, youth between the ages of 15 to and 24 have the fastest-growing rate of opioid overdose hospitalizations in Canada.

Algonquins’ Umbrella Project is responding to this data by offering on-campus training to any staff and students interested in the use of the Narcan nasal spray kits. Narcan is an antidote given to people suspected of overdosing on opioids.

The project has won a best practice award for fighting substance abuse in a post-secondary institution according to the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse and Addictions.

The initiative, which began three years ago, specializes in harm reduction and has trained over 550 staff and students across the Woodroffe, Pembroke and Perth campuses. They have all been trained on the use and location of Narcan kits as well as effective harm reduction strategies, according to Chris Lackner, a communications officer for the college.

“Our goal is to meet the students where they are at,” said Amanda Neilson, a harm reduction consultant with the Umbrella Project. “We want to support all students and staff on our campus, but also create awareness and educate people who have not yet been touched by this crisis.”

Education is a key component, according to Neilson.

The Umbrella Project also offers a variety of programs and events to help the student population cope with drug and alcohol addiction. One of the most popular programs is called Rainy Daze, a student-created harm reduction game.

Neilson encourages anyone struggling with addiction to reach out to Counselling Services, located on the third floor in Student Commons.

“We can provide non-judgemental and confidential harm reduction consultation for free at the welcome centre,” she said.

Neilson also encourages students and staff looking for Narcan kit training or ways to help reach out to others struggling with addictions, to check out the Umbrella Project at www.algonquincollege.com/umbrellaproject.

“It’s nice to see that people are reaching out,” Neilson said. “There is less of a reaction and more of a response.”

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