In an attempt to address the overdose crisis, communities throughout BC will be receiving more than $900,000 in grants for community wellness, safety and harm-reduction.

Harm reduction is a strategy that seeks to reduce the health risks and negative social stigma surrounding alcohol and substance abuse.

Merritt will be receiving $50,000 to put towards community harm reduction programs aimed at helping those most vulnerable.

“We’ve been meeting for some time now, some community agencies, we’ve been getting together and working collaboratively in offering some wraparound services,” said Marlene Jones, Community Policing Coordinator.

“These additional funds are going to allow us to improve that collaboration and look at addressing some of the service gaps. Sometimes community agencies are doing what they can, but they may not do that collaboratively with another, and sometimes that really helps. Bringing people together is good.”

Jones says that the program will provide certain basic necessities for people, like meals, but will also focus on providing mentorship and education.

“We have been doing some peer mentoring in the past couple of summers and we’re going to look at expanding that and including some community cleanup,” said Jones.

“Last year there was a group that was part of the peer mentoring program, they were downtown cleaning up areas, maybe around dumpsters, stuff like that. It gives them something to do positively in the community and work on their work skills.”

Jones explained that Merritt’s own version of the program, that was established prior to the government grant, helped as many as thirty people as far as clients go, and was also beneficial to mentors.

“Even those that are in a mentorship role, those people also really receive quite a benefit from it,” said Jones.

“It gives them an opportunity to use their lived experience and provide a good example for other people and that really helps them along with their challenges as well. Everybody goes through a challenging time, but if it’s a challenging time and there’s drugs or alcohol on top of it that’s a pretty difficult place to come out of on your own. To be able to get up in the morning and have a purpose, whether that purpose is to go and be a part of a work experience program or whether in time that purpose becomes where you go to your job and become part of the community, is a good thing.”