Engaging With People Who Use Substances


Submitted. Fraser Health, in partnership with Sources Community Resource Centres, and through a financial contribution from Health Canada’s Drug Treatment Funding Program, is proud to launch Moments to Milestones: Engaging with People who use Substances. This 30-minute video, intended as an education resource  for first responders, illustrates the remarkable, positive difference that can be made when substance users are approached by police, paramedics and emergency room staff in a caring, respectful and non-judgemental manner. Through compelling stories and insights from people who use substances, first responders and clinicians, Moments to Milestones highlights the need for first responders to attune to their own  values and beliefs in order to suspend judgements that enforce negative stereotypes when approaching substance users, and to instead connect with these individuals with compassion, respect and a sincere desire to help.


“People who are vulnerable and marginalized can often feel judged, fearful and helpless when interacting with first responders. Their first impressions often dictate whether or not they will choose to accept help or look for support services,” said Sherry Mumford, clinical director, Mental Health and Substance Use Services, Fraser Health. “If a person has multiple positive interactions with first responders, they can begin to believe that their life has value; that there is hope; that someone cares. It can have a profound impact on their life.”


Moments to Milestones highlights specific behaviours and actions that while seemingly simple, can have a deep and long-lasting effect on people who use substances and people in crisis: a caring tone of voice, kind gestures, eye contact, thoughtfulness and respect. Many of the people who first responders are dealing with have never experienced this type of treatment. Their lives have been marked by judgement, hostility and blame. The stories shared throughout the video serve as poignant reminders that these people feel discarded and abandoned, ashamed and remorseful; and that any person or situation that implies more rejection or alienation only serves to further embed those feelings and push people back to substance use and self-harm.


“First responders need to remember that the individuals they’re dealing with are people too, and they have feelings and emotions; even though there are times when they don’t seem to,” said Tanja, whose story of recovery is profiled in the video. “Substance users try to hide their feelings to the best of their ability. But believe me, everything you say and do to them has an impact.”


“When you’re dealing with addictions you need to be very patient and have a good listening ear. You always have to keep in mind that these people need help, and how we approach that is very important,” said Don Langille, registered practical nurse, Emergency Psychiatric Services, Surrey Memorial Hospital.

To view Moments to Milestones: Engaging with People who use Substances, visit: http://youtu.be/uZ6MxEqnW4U


To view the trailer, visit: http://youtu.be/b9Ichv-sho8


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