United In Conversation: Humanizing Harm Reduction

United In Conversation” – an innovative, signature community conversation framework. United In Conversation events will bring people together to learn and unlearn in collaborative, interactive discussion sessions between community members with diverse perspectives on each event’s topic.

Our Objective: To facilitate and encourage open and honest conversations about issues our community is facing to create greater understanding, empathy and spark action. 

United in Conversation: Humanizing Harm Reduction

Why This Conversation Is Necessary Now

The recent opioid crisis has seen a surge in the need for appropriate and accessible community supports for substance users. Substance use can have negative impacts on health, personal relationships and overall wellbeing. Some of these impacts are viewed by society as being more “normal” or “acceptable,” such as missing work because of a hangover, while other impacts are seen as more serious or unacceptable, such as being charged for a DUI, or losing one’s job. Individuals living with addictions deserve to be treated with compassion, dignity and respect. One such way to support these individuals is through harm reduction. Harm reduction refers to policies, programs and practices that aim to minimize negative health, social and legal impacts associated with drug use, drug policies and drug laws.

Did you Know?

  • There were 21 fatal drug poisonings in Guelph and Wellington County in 2021. (www.guelphchc.ca)
  • Interviews conducted in 2018 with 108 people who use substances in Guelph found that:
  • Among participants, crystal meth and opioids were the most commonly used substances.
  • Of the 108 people surveyed, 72% had accessed needle exchange/harm reduction supplies in the past 6 months.
  • Over ½ of participants reported housing as one of their biggest needs. Other issues included access to food, counselling, financial and mental health support, primary health care and pain management.


Our Goal

An understanding of people’s complex needs and barriers to accessing support is essential to reduce substance harm in the community. The challenge is breaking down the stigma and social scripts associated with substance use and users. Our goal with this conversation is to inform and educate our community on the topic of harm reduction from local experts and individuals with lived experience.

We hope to humanize the topic of harm reduction and learn how we, as a community, can support those experiencing addiction.

The Event

The event will have two parts:

Part 1: Feature Film on Harm Reduction (Available to view on Sept. 29th)

This film will feature four individuals in our community with diverse experiences in the realm of substance use, addiction and harm reduction. The goal of the film is to provide context and background on addiction and harm reduction for the in-person community conversation on Oct. 6th. This film will address and bust myths about addiction and harm reduction, break down the stigma and unconscious bias associated with addiction and those who experience addiction, humanize the issue of addiction and harm reduction, and explain why United Way funds these types of programs and organizations.

Part 2: In Person Community Conversation With Film Participants

An in person, community conversation with some of the film participants and other community members who work in or have lived experience in the realm of addiction and harm reduction. We invite everyone in our community to participate – regardless of your personal views on addiction and harm reduction. There will be a 20 minute period at the end for community members to ask questions to the conversationalists.

When: Thursday, October 6th 12:00pm – 1:30pm

Where: Peter Clark Hall in the University Centre of Guelph

*A light lunch will be provided. Please arrive at 11:45 am to eat lunch as the event begins promptly at 12:00pm.

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