Interventions at this level take into consideration personal factors that may put some individuals at higher risk for problematic substance use and focuses on enhancing an individual's ability to prevent or address problematic substance use. We have broadened this to include providing information and resources to the student population on harm reduction and resources to promote early intervention, health and safety.
The AC Umbrella Project has integrated knowledge and raised awareness of harm reduction, as well as promoted services for students across the three Algonquin College campuses (Ottawa, Perth, and Pembroke). Various forms of student engagement and outreach, especially during Orientation weeks, have proven to be successful. Some of the materials created include the following:
Integration into Residence Orientation was a successful outreach method, creating a visible harm reduction presence at the College. It included strategies such as the following:
Our marketing and educational material took many shapes and forms throughout the campus to maximize the Umbrella Project brand awareness and increase harm reduction knowledge actively and passively.
Each one of the messages linked to a specific section in the website, where students could find out more information about that specific harm reduction technique. Lip balm is also harm reduction tool – it is often used for the prevention of chapped lips that can occur when smoking substances, reducing the risk of HIV and Hepatitis C transmissions. Having four different messages meant that some students would want to take more than one, which is always good for promotional purposes. The choice also came out of a desire to be original and have something different other than just buttons on hand for students. Students would be more likely to use and hang on to lip balm.
The AC Umbrella Project had the goal to develop an interactive web resource, including digital tools aimed at awareness and self-assessment for students. A partnership was developed with the Algonquin College Applied Research and Innovation (ARI) department. A part-time professor worked with two paid ARI students to oversee develop the RainyDaze game.
RainyDaze - opens in a new window is a harm reduction game intended to inform the user about harm reduction and harm reduction techniques. The game features a series of mini games built around specific harm reduction concepts. The game is targeted directly to the college student demographic and addresses specific situational awareness and provides the user non-judgmental feedback and positive reinforcement of established harm reduction approaches.
Research has suggested that the use of online, interactive interventions for harm reduction can be beneficial, especially among younger participants:
“Some studies have found that computer-based programs can work, especially compared to no intervention at all. For example, one study found that youth (average age 11.6 years old) who got a computer-based intervention (both with and without parent involvement) had less alcohol, tobacco and marijuana use at a three-year follow up period, compared to youth who did not receive any intervention at all”
(Schinke, Schwinn, Di Noia, & Cole, 2004).
RainyDaze won the “Best Use of Multimedia” award from the Canadian Council for the Advancement of Education in 2017
Algonquin College recognizes that, like at all post-secondary institutions across Canada, students at the College fall into several different categories of behavior:
It was important that the Umbrella Project provide not only awareness of harm reduction to the general student population but also on-campus support for individual students are struggling.
The AC Umbrella Project provided a Harm Reduction Consultant (HRC), from Rideauwood Addictions and Family Services -opens in a new window, onsite at the Ottawa campus three days a week as well on an as-needed basis at the Perth campus.
At the Waterfront Campus in Pembroke, 90 minutes outside of Ottawa, the HRC worked with the local community addiction agency, Pathways Alcohol and Drug Treatment Services -opens in a new window, and the Manager of Community and Student Affairs at Algonquin College to create similar services for students attending the Waterfront campus.
Harm reduction consultations provide the following:
Access to the harm reduction consultations takes many different forms:
The AC Umbrella Project established a navigational role for the Harm Reduction Consultant to make effective referrals among the College and community services. The overall harm reduction strategy was presented to the Addictions and Mental Health Network of Champlain region and formally recognize the roles and functions of Harm Reduction Consultant.
Internal and external referrals were made through the harm reduction consultations:
To increase capacity building across campus, a SharePoint account was created to include resources on topics such as:
This resource was provided to the staff and faculty in Student Support Services, Health Services, Health Promotions, Security, International Education Centre, members of the General Advisory Committee, Managers and Chairs of Retention and Student Wellness, Student Success Specialists, and Residence staff.
Members of the AC Umbrella Project presented at many team and staff meetings for a variety of departments throughout the school year to highlight the services provided by the Umbrella Project and to allow staff and faculty to ask questions directly. It also led to discussions on how best to support students who might be struggling with substance use.
Outreach to direct entry students, who were transitioning from secondary to post-secondary, was conducted by connecting with Rideauwood’s -opens in a new window existing school-based counselling for substance abuse in high schools in Ottawa.