Thursday, 19 April 2018 07:07

Opioid Awareness Grant helps Blood Tribe Police Service and Sweetgrass Youth Alliance

Written by  Demi Knight
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With a focus of raising public awareness on the current Opioid crisis within the province, a new $1.4 million grant program will be working to fund 29 different projects across the province this month.

Announced this April, two of these awareness initiatives that will be funded by these newly-announced grants in southern Alberta will be the SAME project with the Sweetgrass Youth Alliance as well as the Opioid Awareness Project created by the Blood Tribe.
“Building greater awareness and supporting conversation around substance use is key to breaking down stigma and saving lives,” said Brandy Payne, Associate Minister of Health during the announcement of these new grants.
“From suburban neighbourhoods to the inner city and from university campuses to the entertainment industry, these projects will help promote understanding and awareness of this public health crisis.”
The 29 projects that will be funded across Alberta will focus mainly on reducing the stigma that surrounds the current opioid crisis by creating more awareness through video, art, social media, workshops and community events.
One project in particular that will be receiving this funding within southern Alberta is that of the Sweetgrass Youth Alliance.
“Sweetgrass Youth Alliance began shortly after I lost my foster son to a Fentanyl overdose in 2015. He was only 19 years old. And I think it would be hard to find anyone in our community that has not been affected somehow by the opioid crisis,” explains Amber Jensen, President of the Sweetgrass Youth Alliance.
This organization which was founded in 2015 through a passion to make positive changes in youth from all backgrounds, works to assist these vulnerable persons in their transitions to adulthood by providing a variety of different programs and activities.
Their one specific program that will be receiving $10,000 from this new provincial grant was the SAME project.
Developed to produce a number of different campaigns and information sessions, this project will work over the continuing months to stimulate better education, awareness and understanding on the issue affecting so many not only in the province, but across the entire globe.
“We are consulting and collaborating with people who have lived with, experienced and are using drugs so that we can find out what they want and need. Our first community meeting is April 27 at 2 p.m. at Sik Ooh Kotoki Friendship Society,” says Jensen on some of the events this project aims to host within the community.
“We are also hosting an event May 15 at the Lethbridge Public Library from 7-9 p.m. that will feature a screening of a documentary entitled The Opioid Epidemic with a Q&A session after with the people with lived experience.”
The SAME project has also been working on a new I am the Opioid Crisis book that compiles stories from different members of the public that have been affected by the opioid crisis in some way with a graphic novel style to appeal to readers of all ages and skill levels.
“I think it would be hard to find anyone in our community that has not been affected somehow by the opioid crisis and at the end of the day we are all the SAME, struggling though life doing the best we can with what we have,” added Jensen on why this SAME project is so important to the community.
However, the Sweetgrass Youth Alliance isn’t the only organization within southern Alberta to receive one of these 29 grants, but also the Blood Tribe.
Receiving a total of $20,000, the Blood Tribe aims to continue their efforts rallying against the opioid crisis by creating a publication, videos and billboards relating specifically to this crisis in the area.
The Blood Tribe’s efforts to combat this crisis however, expand past the newly funded project grant to also include a recently opened overdose prevention site in Stand Off where medical supervision is offered for safer drug consumption in aims to combat fatal overdoses.
These projects and many more received the official announcement for their additional funding from the government earlier this month and are all working hard on their campaigns to try and bring public awareness and decrease the stigma of this growing issue within Alberta in recent years.

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