Last week health care practitioners, community members and a variety of helpers came together for a 2-day conference called “Community Matters: Activating the Village to Reduce Drug Related Harms”. The conference featured professionals in the field as well as youth with various lived experience in poverty, harmful substance use homelessness with presentations by local experts and a keynote on the internationally renowned Icelandic approach to reduce youth substance use from Alfgeir Kristjansson of Iceland/West Virgina (USA). (read a cool story about it here) Dp4N3eoUwAEU1UU

6 Ways To Activate the Village

Although you will likely hear different things from different people about what they learned or will do differently, check out some of my main take away’s from the conference:

  1. In order to reduce harmful substance youth in young people we need to create the conditions of a good life all around them and therefore reduce the need/desire to use harmful substances in the first place. (See “Rat Park” Experiment)
  2. Our approach must be multi-sectoral and heavily informed by local data that is understandable, current and use-able for front line workers
  3. Good local data must be used to prove what works and so measuring successful prevention activities is critical for developing locally relevant policies. (Good example here: ESPAD)
  4. Data is to be consistently gathered/disseminated by (preferably local) professionally trained who can speak both academic and community language
  5. There is a huge role for local policy makers, especially municipal, in facilitating prevention activities including sharing community centres as hubs for supporting families, providing universal/accessible recreation opportunities for kids from all income levels & facilitating networking opportunities for caring adults.
  6. People who use drugs should be included in designing the solutions that are supposedly catered to them. They should not be shamed for their substance use but provided with no-judgement service delivery and an opportunity to help themselves.

It was awesome to connect the various ideas presented to a lot of the work already being done in Winnipeg’s “village” in what is largely Indigenous led and urban ways of behaving! I did a quantitative measurement summary of village activities in 2016 and if these were to be extrapolated upon, imagine the amazing conclusions we could come to that would help improve health for the people & help the government save dollars. You can take a look at some of the findings / thoughts from local people on the hashtag #VillageWpg


I am excited to move forward in implementing some of the ideas as quickly as possible with the many attendees and many more. We also hosted a bell tower this past Friday and got some inner city residents to get involved and in the next month our organizing committee will get together to plan next steps. Shout out AYO!, Manitoba Harm Reduction Network, Ka Ni Kanichihk, Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, Ethero Event Planners, Evolution Sound, The Feast Catering, Sergeant Tommy Prince Place & of course the helpers in the village who attended and represented so well.

If you want to get involved, come see us at the bell tower!

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