Discussing the importance of safe and sober spaces, naloxone training, and de-stigmatizing substance use
National Addictions Awareness Week (NAAW) is an annual campaign intended to raise awareness about substance abuse and eliminate the stigma associated with addiction. This year, NAAW, organized by the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction, began on November 20 and ended on November 26.
Patty Musgrave, Mt. A’s Indigenous Affairs Coordinator, spoke about the new Brave Space Safe & Sober hours that are scheduled every day in the Mawita’mkw Indigenous Gathering Space (WMSC room 130). Musgrave stated that this initiative is intended to support students who need a safe and sober space “without feeling excluded because they don’t drink or party.” When asked what to expect when coming to the Indigenous Gathering Space during these hours, she stated that “[they] can come in, bring their schoolwork, bring their assignments, watch a movie, sit and chat to whoever is working, and expect people to be welcoming and friendly.”
“It’s really important that people know we don’t exclude anyone from this Centre; we welcome all students, and it’s a safe and sober space,” Musgrave added. The Brave Space hours are 4 p.m. to 8 p.m. from Monday to Thursday, 4 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Friday, and 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.
The decision to make the Mawita’mkw Gathering Space the designated Brave Space was an easy one, as Musgrave said that “from a ceremonial perspective, this space was already drug and alcohol-free, so it was the logical place.”
Musgrave emphasized the need to reduce the stigma on campus surrounding addiction. “There is a recovery community in Sackville” that includes staff, students, and faculty. Musgrave herself is a recovering addict; she is celebrating 32 years sober.
“People are dying every day, and as much as there’s not a daily public count, those of us that are involved in the addiction community know that people are dying in this province every day from drug addiction and overdose,” Musgrave said. She adds that it is especially important for students and members of the Mt. A community to “take it upon themselves to get trained and get yourself a Narcan kit.”
Narcan, also known as Naloxone, is a life-saving medication that can be used when there is an opioid poisoning casualty. This medication counteracts opioids and helps to revive the person who has been poisoned. Naloxone can be administered safely by a nasal spray or through an injection.
Musgrave said that she herself keeps a Narcan kit in her desk on campus, and added that it would be beneficial for them to be available in student residences.
Having access to a Naloxone kit is important but knowing how to use it is essential. The St. John Ambulance’s Opioid Poisoning Response Training instructor is leading a free, virtual course that can be completed in around two hours. It can be accessed by going on the St. John Ambulance website and can be completed at any time. This course informs people on how to administer Naloxone, how to assess a situation where a poisoning could have occurred, how to identify various types of opioids, and more. Naloxone kits are available to be picked up at most pharmacies in Sackville after the course has been completed.
Musgrave stated that the Wellness Centre at Mt. A offers many resources to substance users and even has a Mental Health/Harm Reduction Educator on staff, Maggie Brewer, who, she added, is doing an incredible job. Brewer’s role within the Mt. A community is to “[offer] outreach around campus with harm reduction information if students choose to use [and] tips of how to do so safely,” as Brewer put it. She added that she thinks “it is important for them to be aware of alternative things to do on campus besides the party scene,” and highlighted other initiatives such as Take Care Tuesdays, Crafternoons, and Board Game Nights as an alternative way of socializing.
When asking Musgrave what more could be done within the greater community, she said she hopes to see an “active [Narcotics Anonymous] and [Alcoholics Anonymous] group in Sackville,” and perhaps to “bring people in to talk about what addiction really is,” to increase awareness.
The one message that Musgrave would like to get out to students is “before you turn to drugs and alcohol to deal with stress, anxiety, or issues you may be having, please reach out to someone.” She emphasized that it doesn’t matter what family you come from, how much money you have, or what your socioeconomic background is, “addiction impacts everyone.”
To access information about substance use support and resources from the Wellness Centre, contact [email protected]. Substance use support can also be accessed by texting WELLNESS to 741741. Indigenous peoples can visit Hopeforwellness.ca or call the helpline at 1-855-242-3310. The Addiction and Mental Health Mobile Crisis Team also provides services to the Sackville community and can be accessed by calling 1-866-771-7760.