Derek Khan, a recovering drug addict, helps out at the Label Me Person Anti-Stigma Awareness Campaign at Devonshire Mall on Nov. 8, 2019.
Dax Melmer / Windsor Star
By raising awareness and promoting a “cultural shift” a compelling initiative showcases the human side of addiction.“People are people, regardless of what choices they make, regardless of what path they’re on,” Reem Adas, harm reduction community education coordinator with the ADS Committee of Windsor said at the “Label Me Person” travelling display at the Devonshire Mall Friday. “We have to come from a compassionate and empathetic point of view rather than judging and labeling.”The initiative aims to increase awareness about the opioid crisis while fighting stigma by sharing personal narratives of people with lived experience and taking a look at negative language with the city-wide campaign. “Like label me a person before you label me an addict, or a junkie or any type of negative word like that,” said Stephanie Ermatinger, 41, one of the peer supporters volunteering with the campaign Friday shared her story to help others who connect with it.Ermatinger said she faced “scary situations” while battling addiction, in one instance she found herself walking along the highway in the freezing cold with no coat. She said once all the doors were shut, having been kicked out of many places, and eventually hitting her bottom, she decided to seek help.I had no direction, no nothing and I was making a lot of bad decisions and I had issues going on and I didn’t know how to deal with them.Ermatinger said an important part of her recovery was learning to forgive.“When I just gave it up and forgave there was this whole big weight lifted off of me like ‘wow I was carrying that around for like 20 years with me, so today I can talk about it and I just hope it helps somebody else before they take that hit of no return.”The educational pop-up is timely as the Windsor-Essex Community Opioid and Substance Strategy group upgraded an overdose alert announced last Friday. The local watchdog group updated the alert Thursday after hospitals dealt with seven emergency overdoses the day before.
Stephanie Ermatinger, a recovering drug addict, helps out at the Label Me Person Anti-Stigma Awareness Campaign at Devonshire Mall on Nov. 8, 2019.
Dax Melmer /
Of the seven cases Wednesday, four were confirmed to be amphetamine-related (or connected to crystal meth), while one was confirmed to be related to opioid use.“Certainly part of the awareness of going into the community is to continue to promote a cultural shift in the understanding of people who use substances and the need for our community to collectively address the opioid crisis,” said Michael Brennan, executive director of ACW“I think that people look at these overdoses sometimes and feel these aren’t people that are members of their family, these aren’t friends, aren’t colleagues these are other people,” he said. “So we’re trying to reduce that othering so that people are more compassionate around people who use substances.”The interactive display features personal narratives from people who are recovering or have recovered, from an addiction.Derek Khan, 61, has been volunteering with ACW for two years to give back to the community now that he’s in recovery. He believes stigmas surrounding mental health played a part in his addiction.
The Label Me Person Anti-Stigma Awareness Campaign at is seen at the Devonshire Mall on Nov. 8, 2019.
Dax Melmer /
“Growing up in the 60s mental health issues weren’t really talked about they were more or less swept underneath the rug,” he said. “I think whatever was going on inside me when I was younger, led me into the direction of drug abuse.”“I had no direction, no nothing and I was making a lot of bad decisions and I had issues going on and I didn’t know how to deal with them,” Khan said. “Because I didn’t know how to talk about it either.”He said the campaign helps to open up those conversations and address issues people struggle with.Related
The display also allowed people to register for workshops such as “Introduction to Harm Reduction” delving into language and stigma, “Opioids and Naloxone,” and “Consumption and Treatment Services” which offers information and conversations on overdose prevention site and a case study on the impact of a safe injection site, among others.“We found the less stigma there is in the community around people who use substances and trying to understand the power of addiction we can reduce the barriers to connecting these people to the care that they need in the community,” Brennan said.The “Label Me Person” project will be at the Devonshire Mall from Friday, Nov. 8 to Sunday, Nov. 10 during mall hours. More information on where the campaign will be heading along with information surrounding ACW’s educational workshop series is available at email@example.com