Presenting author: Jade Creelman
Presenting author biography:
Jade Creelman is a 20 year old community leader and artist based in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. They have had an interest in Harm reduction for about two years, and have been working as Chokecherry Studios' Harm Reduction Coordinator for just under a year.
Community is Harm Reduction
Many youth-serving organizations are unable to meet the needs of youth because they fail to centre the knowledge, lived experiences, and needs of youth. This is especially the case for youth who use substances. Without safe, inclusive and non-judgemental spaces to share stories and access peer education, youth are left without a supportive understanding of drugs leading to stigma and isolation that follow us into adulthood. For this reason, the world of harm reduction must ensure it is approachable, inclusive, and safe for youth as well.
Chokecherry Studios is a youth-founded non-profit in inner-city Saskatoon that provides programming and services to youth, ages 11-29, facing multiple barriers. We collaborate with youth and their communities, and allow their experiences and priorities to guide new initiatives including our Community Is Harm Reduction (CIHR) program, which launched June 2022. This program aims to: address gaps in crucial service delivery to youth; educate youth and generate capacity building towards advocacy and; raise awareness to decrease stigma around substance use.
With the support of a youth advisory committee, our CIHR Coordinator works to provide dynamic programming every Friday evening. Program activities include a peer-led grief support group for youth, Naloxone training, access to free Naloxone kits, youth-developed educational materials, youth-led awareness campaigns, community clean-ups, harm reduction workshops centered on lived/living experience, and drop-in style days where we just hang out. Chokecherry youth show a strong interest in learning more about harm reduction, and educating Chokecherry team members on harm reduction in the same breath. Since the inception of this program, youth are increasingly coming to us with urgent needs including when they are experiencing an overdose. For the harm reduction sector to be impactful in the lives of youth, it must foster safe(r) spaces where youth perspectives are included and supported.