Topic: Tackling the Opioid Crisis in Ontario
OC’s second Speakers Series of the 2021-22 year took place on November 27th and the speakers were Amber Fritz, who is with the Réseau ACCESS Network, and Shawn McLaren who is with St. John Ambulance.
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The opioid crisis is a complex public health issue that has worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic, with many communities across Canada reporting record numbers of opioid-related deaths, emergency calls and hospitalizations. Both Amber and Shawn provide critical support services. Amber has worked on the frontline of the drug poisoning crisis on several initiatives including overdose prevention education and naloxone and harm reduction distribution. As Chief Learning Officer for St. John Ambulance, Shawn has launched an Opioid program focused on the reduction of stigma and promotion of harm reduction. Both speakers’ bios are below.
Amber Fritz – For nearly a decade, Amber Fritz has been an advocate for those living with, affected by, or at risk of HIV, Hepatitis C as well as struggling with challenges of substance use and mental health. In her previous role as an outreach coordinator, Amber worked on the frontline of the drug poisoning crisis, carrying out several initiatives to benefit those accessing services in Greater Sudbury and across the region. These included overdose prevention education, naloxone & harm reduction distribution, improving the wellness of frontline workers and continually advocating at a various levels to address the specific needs of the North. Currently, Amber serves as a social service worker providing case management support to those at risk of HIV or HEP C.
Shawn McLaren – As Chief Learning Officer at St. John Ambulance, Shawn leads the development of all curriculum as well as the educational process for the organization. In addition to this role, he acts as a national liaison for all matters related to first aid training. Shawn holds a Master’s degree in Adult Education with a specialization Corporate Development and Knowledge Management. Since 2016 Shawn has been working to bring attention to the Opioid crisis. His efforts began with small lunch & learns while acting in director role for our Ottawa office where he partnered with Ottawa public health and local pharmacies to educate people and distribute Naloxone kits. As he moved into the CLO role, he transitioned this to a national scale through the adaptation of St. John Ambulance’s first aid curriculum to include Opioid related content and the launch of a specific program focused on the reduction of stigma, promotion of harm reduction and empowering people to take action when faced with someone experiencing a poisoning. Both Shawn and St. John Ambulance are committed to doing all they can to aid their communities facing this public health crisis.