Spotlight Interview with LAMP Executive Director Keddone Dias Harm Reduction Program

 
LAMP Community Health Centre is stepping up its efforts to address the concerns of its community members related to recent incidents at the centre that have left many concerned about safety; and to strengthen its harm reduction services towards supporting an inclusive and safe environment for all.   That’s the goal of LAMP’s Executive Director Keddone Dias after a recent and sometimes heated community meeting with neighbouring residents, staff, partners, and supporters of LAMP’s harm reduction program.Here are some of the actions that are being taken in response to our neighbours’ concerns as outlined in a recent article in the Etobicoke Guardian.:
 
The meeting was organized to hear the concerns of local residents, and to begin a conversation on how to move forward in a collaborative and constructive way.  At issue were complaints by residents concerning activities, behaviors and actions on LAMP’s property by clients of our harm reduction program that have left our neighbours feeling unsafe as well as concerned about the well-being of those using the space.
 
As the issues of homelessness, substance use, mental health and gaps in services are deepening and made visible in our community; those whose lives are impacted are accessing LAMP’s services and finding safety on the Centre’s property. Our challenge is in responding to this rapidly increased service need and finding ways to build collaborative solutions to address the concerns.   
 
“We are part of a community and all members of the community have a place at LAMP. The opioid crisis is a new epidemic that is changing the very nature of our community, and the harm reduction program responds to the growing need for services in a part of the city that has very limited wrap-around supports available. It’s going to take a collective effort to meet existing and emerging community health needs and at the same time address the concerns of residents,” said Keddone.
 
LAMP will continue to engage with the community to work on solutions.  “I believe everyone is concerned about homelessness, the overdose crisis and the need for enhanced support services in our community.  I think we can use this moment as an opportunity to come up with solutions that everyone can get behind.  “she said. Recommendations were made at the community meeting to pull together an advisory group to work on current and emerging issues with representation from community stakeholders and that is being explored.
 
  “The real issue is the lack of support in our community for those who need housing and a full range of harm reduction services.   They come to LAMP because we are the only option, but we are not a safe injection site or a shelter.  These events have amplified that these services are what is so desperately needed in this part of the city,” said Keddone.
 
Here are some of the actions that are being taken in response to our neighbours’ concerns:
 
LAMP is developing procedures and a communications plan to help clients better understand their rights and responsibilities with respect to their use of spaces at LAMP, and to support positive interactions between clients and the broader community.
 
Plans are in the works to increase maintenance of the space and the monitoring of activities on the property after hours to ensure safety for all, including harm reduction clients.
 
 LAMP is reviewing our programs and service agreements to ensure that LAMP is safe, respectful and welcoming to all.
 
LAMP is investigating popular education tools for clients through health promotion to strengthen community bonds.    
 
LAMP is looking at expanding its community advisory/engagement committee.

LAMP's Executive Director Keddone Dias can be reached at 416-252-6471 ext. 227 or by email at keddoned@lampchc.org