Virtual Help icon Virtual Help

  • Chat with library staff now
  • Contact your library
Skip to Main Content

Institutional Approaches (Harm Reduction Toolkit Section 3 of 4)

For a greater impact, it is important to share and build the college/university community’s capacity to understand and support the student body.


Strategic Area 3: Community Capacity Building

Intro to Strategic Area 3

Transmitting skills and knowledge to others assists in creating an effective and sustainable harm reduction model allowing the staff, faculty and students to share the information in their own respective capacities.

Examples of Community Capacity Building

A General Advisory Committee was assembled to support the sustainability and effectiveness of the harm reduction project, to increase staff and faculty commitment and awareness of the strategy, and to promote the AC Umbrella Project amongst departments and colleagues. The members represented support staff, administrative staff, faculty, and students regarding their experiences/perspectives regarding student substance use on campus.

The Committee had the following objectives:

  • To engage key decision makers to support the harm reduction strategy.
  • To provide feedback about the project and to discover new ideas that may be implemented into the project.
  • To encourage and support the participation of Algonquin College in the National College Health Assessment (NCHA) - opens in a new window.
  • Algonquin College’s General Advisory Committee included the following members:
    • Harm Reduction Consultant
    • Harm Reduction Project Manager
    • Manager of Counselling Services
    • Associate Director of Student Support Services
    • Manager of Health Services
    • Emergency Management Coordinator
    • Manager of Security Services
    • Counsellors from Counselling Services, the Centre for Accessible Learning, the Mamidosewin Indigenous Student Centre, and Perth Campus
    • Nursing Professor
    • Chair of Wellness Research and Innovation
    • Director of Student Association
    • Manager of Marketing and Communications of the Student Association
    • Health Promotion Educators
    • Students
    • Residence Life Manager
    • Other staff and faculty with an interest to participate

The General Advisory Committee was dissolved once the Umbrella Project joined the Mental Health Steering Committee which included several of the same people/positions

Social Service Worker and Child Youth Care students completed placements with the Umbrella Project and were partially supervised by the Umbrella Project team. They participated in several facets of the Umbrella Project:

  • Facilitated on-site programming
  • Researched and created inclusive harm reduction messaging in presentation and pamphlet form, and a proposal for a harm reduction vending machine
  • Facilitated SMART Recovery - opens in a new window meetings
  • Participated in student outreach
  • Participated in the Student Advisory Committee
  • Participated in programming in Residence
  • Created interactive, informative games and activities
  • Created a concurrent disorders program for onsite programming in Residence called: High on Stress
  • Worked collaboratively to create projects and information booths throughout the year
  • Designing and implementing week-long events on campus and in residence

For more detailed information, please take a look at the National Awareness Week Student Report (2016) - opens in a new window and What’s Under the Umbrella Transition Manual 2018 - opens in a new window.

The Community Group Health Project involved nursing students in the University of Ottawa – Algonquin College Collaborative B.Sc.N. for their Community Health Nursing Practicum. The students collaborated with the Algonquin College Umbrella Project in order to promote harm reduction in the Algonquin College student community.

The students were provided with half a day of training on understanding substance use and harm reduction.

Over the past three years, the following initiatives were were implemented as part of this project:

  • Information booths (one for safe partying and one for stress management)
  • A four-part poster series
  • Pamphlets on safer use of cocaine and MDMA
  • Research into substance use issues that directly affect and impact nursing students and professionals including nursing school policies and professional supports

For more information on activities and research, please see Nursing Reports.

A sustainable E-learning digital training module “Helping Students Succeed — Navigating through Problematic Substance Use - opens in a new window” was created to deliver information on key topics such as:

  • The unique position of campus staff and faculty for supporting students
  • An overview of substance use
  • Harm reduction
  • Helpful ways to support students struggling with substance use

The Harm Reduction Consultant and Coordinator of Training at Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services - opens in a new window gathered and vetted the content, much of which was based on Rideauwood’s full day training (“Understanding Substance Use and Harm Reduction Training”), and adapted it for Algonquin College.

A team was assembled from Algonquin College’s Learning and Teaching Services and Curriculum Services, which included an E-Learning and Academic Application Systems Analyst, an Education and Curriculum Support Technology Integration Specialist, and an Educational Technologist and Curriculum Specialist. The team designed and created the four-part module that engages and informs staff and faculty at Algonquin College.

The AC Umbrella Project offers face to face training to the Algonquin College staff and faculty to increase awareness and education, fostering a harm reduction approach on campus.

The training was developed in partnership with Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services. It is delivered through the following methods:

  • Four E-Learning training modules for staff and faculty (Helping Students Succeed — Navigating through Problematic Substance Use)
  • In person training
  • Training, coaching, and supervising counselling staff to support their capacity to address addiction issues.
  • Workshops and training sessions for students.

The in person training is offered as two full day sessions, offered throughout the year:

  • Day 1: Understanding Substance Use and Harm Reduction Overview:
    • The continuum from substance abuse to substance dependency/addiction
    • Impacts on the brain and the neurobiological development
    • Signs and symptoms of problematic use
    • Biopsychosocial contributing factors and impacts
    • Risk factors
    • Denial/defence systems
    • Harm reduction definition and strategies
  • Day 2: Motivational Interviewing Overview:
    • How to promote internal motivation to move forward through the stages of change
    • Overview of recovery pathway
    • How to support students throughout the recovery process and addiction treatment system
    • Managing strong feelings of transference and countertransference in helpers
    • Experiential activities include role plays and case studies
  • For evaluation results from 2015-2017, please view the Umbrella Project Harm Reduction Training Reports. - opens in a new window

Promotion of the trainings was completed in several different avenues, from communication on MyAC (the online newsletter for the Algonquin College community), to direct email invitations, to emails sent to managers and chairs of departments. Interested individuals would sign up through Eventbrite.

  • The Umbrella Project hosted two Knowledge Exchange Conferences with local, provincial and national influential speakers to discuss harm reduction, national and provincial strategies regarding alcohol use, opioid trends across the country and local supports:
  • The Umbrella Project materials are provided to other colleges and universities at no cost The AC Umbrella Project website is available with no restrictions for non-Algonquin staff, faculty, students.
  • Project information is shared via the social media accounts of Student Support Services and Residence.
  • A SharePoint site that will be used by the members of the General Advisory Committee.
  • An online group was created on the myAC employee portal forum page.
  • A profile on the Harm Reduction Consultant was included in the AC Hub Student Services Newsletter - opens in a new window.
  • The AC Umbrella Project joined the Canadian Collaborative on High Risk Drinking (now The Postsecondary Education Partnership – Alcohol Harms).
  • The Postsecondary Education Partnership – Alcohol Harms (PEP–AH) is a partnership with universities and colleges across Canada and the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA).
  • This group is collaborating to build an evidence-based framework for action to reduce harms related to alcohol consumption on campus. Member postsecondary institutions support campus team (made up of students, staff and faculty) that aim to implement the PEP–AH framework.
  • PEP–AH members share strategies, producing a collection of best practices for reducing alcohol harms on Canadian university and college campuses, and pull together research to help member institutions better understand the underlying issues.
  • For additional information, view the following documents:
  • The AC Umbrella Project attended Algonquin College Students’ Association Directors’ Meetings.
  • The Students’ Association web series did an episode on the AC Umbrella Project. This episode got 11,383 views on the Student Association’s Facebook Page.

The focus of the Student Advisory Committee is to provide guidance and recommendations in order to ensure a strategy that is relevant and includes student participation. The members represent the students while discussing the student experience of substance use, prevention and awareness campaigns, and the effectiveness of the Algonquin College harm reduction strategy.

Other responsibilities of the committee include:

  • Providing feedback about the project and discovering new ideas that may be implemented into the project.
  • Supporting the sustainability and effectiveness of the harm reduction project.
  • Increasing student commitment and awareness of the strategy.
  • Providing advice for ongoing harm reduction student activities.
  • Complete training on harm reduction activities and tools, and act as student ambassadors on campus.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

  • Advisory Committees can be a great resource. General Advisory Committees can be a great opportunity to gather interested campus staff and faculty from all different departments to increase college engagement and investment. They can also be an unlimited resource for ideas on how to build, promote and implement a harm reduction framework on your campus.
  • Be prepared to facilitate harm reduction 101 for all meetings. When people understand what you are trying to achieve they are more likely to not only support the project but they also become a conduit of knowledge themselves.
  • Look to courses with community health projects.Courses that have community health projects as part of their curriculum can be a source of student engagement.
  • Student placements help spread knowledge.They provide a great opportunity for students to learn about harm reduction and student substance use, while providing the other students with peers that they feel comfortable talking to about their experiences.
  • Share responsibility for students.In order for the student placements to be a success, supervision of students needed to be shared. There were only two of us, and we knew we would not be able to take on that amount of responsibility. Teaming up with other campus services or centres will create a richer and more effective student placement.
  • Student placements are valuable for outreach.We noticed a huge impact on our ability to engage in awareness raising and educational activities by having the placement students. They were able to participate in many more events and student outreach activities that we would not have been able to do without their support.
  • Increase your capacity and reach with student placements.Student placements can take a team of two people and make it look like a team of six, which for impact and awareness on campus is huge.
  • The more education provided, the better.The more information about substance use and harm reduction there is available (online, in-house), the better. When you educate the educators and other staff members on campus, you are providing information and skills that can be transferred to the large network of students they have contact with.
  • Reach out to campus media outlets.Colleges and universities have several different media outlets. Reach out and be seen and heard across campus.
  • Engage the Student Advisory Committee.Student Advisory Committees need to be more than a pool of students to whom information transmitted. We were not able to effectively use the Student Advisory Committee because we were limited in our time frame and significant funding objectives that needed to be completed.
  • Students are a wealth of knowledge and creativity.They need the space and the freedom for true authentic participation.

Strategic Area 4: Culture as Intervention

Intro to Strategic Area 4

Culture as Intervention-cut this from the Research Best Practices example and use as intro It was important to use inclusive and culturally appropriate methods of service delivery for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students while respecting their identity in a Risk and Harm Reduction framework of services and supports at Algonquin College.

Examples of Culture as an Intervention

  • It was important to use inclusive and culturally appropriate methods of service delivery for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit students while respecting their identity in a Risk and Harm Reduction framework of services and supports at Algonquin College.
  • Much of the literature states that “culture as intervention” is the best practice approach to creating resilience in Indigenous populations when it comes to substance use (Marsh, Coholic, Cote-Meek, & Najavits, 2015; Aboriginal Healing Foundation, 2007).
  • The AC Umbrella Project supported the preexisting programming at the Indigenous Student Centre and participated in many of the cultural events. Through this format, a harm reduction approach to substance use was presented in an informal manner to the students at the Centre.
  • Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health - opens in a new window and Tungasuvvingat Inuit Community Centre - opens in a new window were consulted prior to strategies being implemented.
  • Coordinated Indigenous Cultural Safety Training by Wabano Aboriginal Health Centre and Mamisarvik Healing Centre was offered for staff and faculty of Algonquin College.
  • Participated in Wabano Centre for Aboriginal Health – Cultural Safety Training Project. This project seeks to educate and raise awareness on Aboriginal issues and the unique circumstances of Aboriginal people and their interests in Ottawa, as well as educating organizations on safe ways to work with the Aboriginal community, decreasing barriers and promoting understanding.
  • The AC Umbrella Project provided consultations with the Mamidosewin Indigenous Student Centre staff members to listen to their needs and support them with difficult conversations with their students.
  • Mamidosewin Centre placement students worked at the Mamidosewin Centre and were supervised by the AC Umbrella Project to integrate a student-based harm reduction approach into services and conversations at the Centre.

Lessons Learned and Recommendations

  • Involve Indigenous Student Centres regularly. More regular AC Umbrella Project involvement could have occurred within the Mamidosewin Centre.
  • Connect with indigenous community resources.Doing so increased the depth of information exchanged and significantly increased trained members’ capacity to understand and support indigenous students on campus.