Outreach barbecue aims to help those struggling with addiction

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

Giishkaandago’Ikwe Health Services hosted a barbecue outside the Nugget Motel yesterday. On top of hot dogs and burgers, workers also distributed addiction resources like naloxone and fentanyl testing strips.

When asked why the event was so important, mental wellness worker Ruthann McGinnis motioned to the door behind her, where a heart and the words “RIP Thre” had been written, referring to the 16-year-old who died from suspected overdose in April.

“We got the idea at Thre [Windego]’s funeral,” said McGinnis. “A lot of them got up and talked about how hard their life is, how stigmatized they are. They feel like they’re not bad people, they’re just sick people.”

An outreach barbecue was held yesterday by Giishkaandago’Ikwe Health Services and RRFN, to support those struggling in our community. In addition to food, they handed out resources such as fentanyl testing strips and naloxone. –Daniel Adam photo

Kayla Allan, addictions case worker with Rainy River First Nations’ addictions program, says it’s important to humanize these relationships.

“We want them to feel like people and that their lives matter,” she said. “That’s the whole purpose of this.”

To obtain some of the barbecue’s resources, Allan said they reached out to the Northwestern Health Unit and received naloxone and needle dispensary kits to give away.

Her organization also provided fentanyl testing strips. She said they are to ensure everyone is safe and alive. McGinnis mentioned chatting with people who thought they were taking meth, not realizing that they had been given fentanyl.

McGinnis and Allan did mention a downfall that the strips take five minutes to register, and that some people may not be patient enough to find out.

On top of these supports, the barbecue also offered hygiene kits, counselling referrals, and more. Rainy River First Nations’ team plans to do a few events like these every month.