Chuckles for CHEO – 2014 Edition

Chuckles for CheoI am very excited to announce that I will be on the lineup for Chuckles for CHEO on June 2, 2014, a charity event raising money for the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario. Working as an addiction counselor in the Ottawa school system a lot of my clients utilize the services provided by CHEO, especially when it comes to their mental health needs. There are a good many clients of mine whose lives have literally been saved by the intervention of CHEO, so I am extremely honoured for this chance to give back in whatever way I can.

This event is being hosted by one of Ottawa’s funniest comedians: Josh Williams and is being organized by a very near and dear friend to me, Boom 99.7’s Dylan Black. Other comedians on stage include Kyle Brownrigg, Adrian Cronk, Mike Beatty and headliner Jim McNally. There will also be musical performances by Alex Ryder.

This event sells out every year – so call and make your reservations today! Tickets are only $10.00 and can be reserved by calling 613-233-8000.

I also believe there’s going to be a silent  auction and a 50:50 draw at the event as well.

Hope to see y’all there!

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Rideauwood Addiction & Family Services

I have mentioned in many posts before that I work as an Addiction Counselor. I haven’t gone out of my way to discuss where exactly I work, as I typically like to keep this site separate from my work, but every so often life happens and paths cross. I debated long and hard about whether to post this or not, but I feel like I would be doing a disservice to my place of employment and to the passion I have for working in the addiction field if I didn’t post it. I truly hope you take the time to give this post a read and do what you feel is right for you. I am going to be talking exclusively about an Ottawa, Ontario based program – but our program also affects cities all across North America and I explain why further on in this post.

The organization I work for is called Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services. I work there as a High School Addiction Counsellor. I work out of two Ottawa-area high schools and four Ottawa-area Elementary & Middle Schools doing individual one-on-one drug counselling, prevention and education around drugs and alcohol, and group presentations to classes.

Ottawa is a very lucky city. We are one of the first cities in North America to put a substance abuse counsellor in EVERY HIGH SCHOOL in both the Catholic and the Public School Board in the city. Our school based program has been around for nearly 25 years and over this time have managed to make its way into each and every school. Currently we are also moving into every school with a Grade 7 & 8. The NIDA (National Institute on Drug Abuse) released a study a few years ago (2012) that indicates that 25% of students between Grade 7 – 10 and that by the time of graduation 46% of high school students will try illegal drugs at one point or another. These are American statistics… the number is actually higher in Canada than it is in The United States of America. My role as a counselor isn’t to necessarily tell them drugs are good or bad. My role is to educate about what drugs do to them biologically, socially, emotionally, etc… and then create action plans with the students based on their own needs.

You may be asking – does Ottawa really need a substance abuse counsellor in every school? The answer is yes. At each of my high schools I see approximately 15 – 20 students on an individual basis. Many of the other counsellors at Rideauwood have similar caseloads. Some of the students I see may be experimenting or habitually using drugs and alcohol, some may be in trouble with the law, others may just have questions, and still others may have friends or family members who are abusing these substances and they need support. Sometimes I see students who aren’t using drugs and alcohol but suffer from other addictive-personality-disorders including eating disorders, video game/internet addictions, and gambling disorders.

Rideauwood has a wide range of programs outside of our school-based programs. We run a drug-treatment court, we take clients from the youth mental health court, we run family based educational programs, we run parent based support programs, we run gambling programs and are also starting to break ground on other programs including mindfulness, eating disorders and video game addictions.

For those out there who don’t live in Ottawa and are curious as to why this may apply to you, I would like to also add that Rideauwood Addiction and Family Services consults with other addiction agencies across North America. We have programs approach us all the time and ask how they can implement programs like ours in their cities. Senator Vernon White also speaks highly of Rideauwood and our school based program when he speaks across Canada. We are helping other agencies, currently those in other Ontario regions set up similar programs to ours.

Like most non-profits we receive most of our funding from The Ministry of Health and Long Care as well as from other various agencies (including The Sen’s Foundation via The United Way). We also receive funding from donors. We only usually do one fundraising blitz a year, which has just started right now, and donating to Rideauwood can help in a variety of ways. Right now our school-based counselors are able to give 10.5 hours a week to each high school they work in and 2.5 hours a week to each elementary or middle school that they are in. Our big push right now is to move into these schools with Grade 7’s and 8’s and be able to provide more services for a longer duration of time. We are also hoping to be able to invest more time and research into our gambling programs and our up and coming eating disorder and video game/internet programs.

With more funding we’re also able to help out other agencies as they strive to set up school-based programs in other cities. We would be able to do more hands on training of staff and help implement an amazing program that will have an impact on future generations.

RideauwoodI don’t like soliciting for donations but I’d love to ask for your help.  I know a lot of different organizations reach out looking for donations on a regular basis, as you choose whether you wish to donate anywhere this year I would ask that you take Rideauwood into serious consideration. Donating to Rideauwood’s fundraising campaign is very simple. Simply click here and click to make a donation. A tax receipt will be e-mailed to you upon confirmation. Every dollar makes a difference, so even if you’re moved to only be able to give a small amount know that it will be going to make a difference in the lives of students and families across the city.

If you have any questions about Rideauwood or my role at Rideauwood please don’t hesitate to drop me a line! Would love to have a chat with you about it!

For more information on Rideauwood check out our website.

Thank you so much for your time and donations!

Valentine’s Day – A Remembrance

PosterValentine’s Day is hardly a real Holiday. A day to commemorate commercialism and tell someone you love them with flowers or chocolate is a cheap gimmick. Sure, I’ve celebrated a few Valentine’s Days in my life, but nothing too extravagant by any means. However, I always stop and pause on this day because of an event that I participated in 8 years ago. On February 14, 2006, I marched in the Annual Woman’s Memorial March in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver, British Columbia.

Taken from the Woman’s Memorial March in the DTES Facebook Event Page:

“The first women’s memorial march was held in 1991 in response to the murder of a Coast Salish woman on Powell Street in Vancouver. Her name is not spoken today out of respect for the wishes of her family. Out of this sense of hopelessness and anger came an annual march on Valentine’s Day to express compassion, community, and caring for all women in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, Unceded Coast Salish Territories. Twenty three years later, the women’s memorial march continues to honour the lives of missing and murdered women.

Increasing deaths of many vulnerable women from the DTES still leaves family, friends, loved ones, and community members with an overwhelming sense of grief and loss. Women continue to go missing or be murdered with minimal to no action to address these tragedies or the systemic nature of gendered violence, poverty, racism, or colonialism. In light of the sham provincial inquiry, we are calling for a national and international public inquiry that is led by family and community members and that centers our experiences, need for healing, and quest for answers, concrete action, and meaningful justice. 

This event is organized and led by women in the DTES because women – especially Indigenous women – face physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual violence on a daily basis. The February 14th Women’s Memorial March is an opportunity to come together to grieve the loss of our beloved sisters, remember the women who are still missing, and to dedicate ourselves to justice.”    

Carnegie Hall

My time in Vancouver between high school and University was an eye opening year. It was one that definitely changed who I was for better and for worse. It’s a year that had as many ups as it did downs, but it was one that really allowed me to learn about myself and created a passion in me to work in the criminology and addictions fields.

While in Vancouver I met an amazing woman by the name of Jenn. Jenn was a survival sex-worker who had overcome not only working in the sex-trade, but also significant drug and alcohol problems, and was using her knowledge to help those still trapped in the cycle. She started a sandwich program, called Jenn’s Kitchen, where she prepared sandwiches each night and took them out to the sex-workers AND the pimps, because if she only gave them to the sex-workers, the pimps would swoop right in and take the food for themselves. She helped feed girls who were ignoring food to get a fix, and showing love the entire time.

Jenn Allan

I’ve always been inspired by Jenn’s ministry. It is simple, yet so extremely effective. Jenn is an extremely passionate woman, especially around justice issues facing Indigenous women in the Vancouver area. Currently Jenn heads up a group that she created called Cop Watch which is an Anti-Police Brutality Organization. Jenn also lectures and presents on the injustices around missing women in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver. If you would like to contact Jenn for more information on her program’s and what is happening in the Downtown East Side of Vancouver you can reach her at: survivorjenn@spinfinder.com

Canada has a really dark history when it comes to investigating reports of missing women, especially those who come from impoverished situations or come from different cultural backgrounds. This day is a day to remember those that were lost, especially of First Nation and Aboriginal descent. The goal of the day is to never forget those who have been lost and to call out for their justice.

Kellie Little 2When I arrived at Carnegie Hall at the corner of Main and Hastings on the chilly February 14, 2006, I was given a name to pin to my suit jacket. The name I received was Kellie Little. I knew nothing of Kellie Little at this time. I simply pinned the name to my jacket and the day started. It wasn’t until later that I started to do research on Kellie Little and in that moment what was simply a name pinned to my suit jacket became a life that I would never forget. Kellie Little was born on March 12, 1969, and was last seen on April 23, 1997. She was reported missing on April 30, 1997. Kellie was a male to female transsexual who ended up on the streets as a known drug user and prostituted person.  We don’t know what happened to Kellie, but every year on this day I’m reminded to think of her and say a prayer for her and her family and loved ones.

The Speeches Started

At the time of the march I was actively involved with working with The Salvation Army and with their churches and programs in the British Columbia area, hence the uniform in the photos. When the march started I had, in my opinion, a transformative moment. Thousands of people rallied together and marched together in the name of justice. I learned First Nations songs, dances, prayers and meditations that day. I rejoiced with people whose families had been brought back together. I mourned with those who lost loved ones. But ultimately I remembered.

March StartingI never knew Kellie Little. I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who actually knows her. But every Valentine’s Day, whomever she may be with, wherever she is, I hope that she can feel that there’s someone in this world thinking about her, hoping and praying for her safety, and hoping and praying for rest and justice on her behalf. And one day I hope to be back in Vancouver on a Valentine’s Day and attend this march again, only to hear that justice is being served, that women aren’t disappearing off of the streets, and I truly hope that those we remember find peace.

Women's March 2014For More Info on the Women’s Memorial March

For More Info on the Reality of the Situation

What is Being Done

Substance Abuse & Addiction – Time to Break the Stigma

Philip Seymour Hoffman

Celebrity culture includes the notion that one should have their name associated with a cause. It does something for their public image. Celebrities take a stand for social justice issues including, but not limited to, poverty in the 3rd world and stateside, the ethical treatment of animals, physical disabilities, veteran affairs, bullying and over the past decade or so a large focus has been on mental health. Unfortunately the names associated with disorders such as addiction, or the even simpler substance abuse, are usually the names of those who are no longer with us because of their passing due to a drug or alcohol problem.

While this post relates with the death, an apparent heroin overdose, of the ever-talented and most-beloved actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, it has been brewing in my mind for quite some time. We live in a world of stigma. We live in a world of double standards. We live in a world where in North America we possess just over 4% of the world’s population, yet consume over 65% of the world’s supply of hard drugs.* We excuse politicians and celebrities substance use as a normalcy. The news hits the media and will cause an uproar that many of us get caught up in and the damning thing is we can’t get enough of the train wreck.

Bieber and FordRecently embattled “Mayor” of Toronto, Rob Ford, indicated that people shouldn’t be putting pressure on, or be boycotting, or even be upset at Justin Bieber for his recent DUI because he’s “only 19.” That attitude is sickening. It’s alright to recklessly put lives in danger while abusing mind-altering substances because you’re 19 years old? Give me a freaking break! In Ottawa, Ontario, radio station Hot 89.9 recently put a ban on playing Justin Bieber songs on their airwaves until he decides to go to a rehab facility, which is all fine and dandy, but rehab only works for those who can even take the first step when it comes to substance abuse problems and actually admit that they have a problem.

Drugs and PrisonMost won’t. Who wants to be called a drug addict? Most drug users believe they have their habits under control, some of them might, but some of them might also float away on their high and never return, only to be found in a washroom with a needle in their arm. We have built a stigma around drug use and addiction that I believe will never fully be broken down until drug law itself is reformed. In the United States 25% of federal inmates are there on drug charges.** Portugal decriminalized illicit drug use and ten years later drug abuse in Portugal was halved.*** Portugal was able to break down a stigma. Users were able to get help. Police were able to put efforts into punishing dealers over users. Money was put into rehabilitation facilities for those who actually wanted treatment.

PortugalAs an addiction counselor in Canada it is typically a 3-4 month wait to get into an effective and reputable rehab facility for someone who wants to go (unless you’re filthy rich – money can buy you anything – even if it means bumping a poorer addict from a spot they had waited months to get). Imagine if someone tried to commit suicide and the hospital told them they would have to wait 3-4 months to get into a Mindfulness program or start getting full time mental health treatment? People would be outraged. So why aren’t we outraged at the lack of services for those who need it? Why aren’t we outraged that people are dying and their deaths could be prevented?

corey monteithThis post did start off talking about the celebrity culture and I mentioned double standards at the same time. We care so often when a celebrity passes away, especially when it’s drug related, yet when the homeless man down the street passes away from alcoholism that has literally caused his liver to leak we don’t bat an eye. We focus so hard on the Philip Seymour Hoffman’s of the world and neglect the veterans suffering from PTSD who have started to self-medicate with drugs and alcohol and are drinking their way to an early grave. We hold vigils for the Cory Monteith’s yet when a junkie passes away from OD’ing in a back alley we make snide remarks about their behaviour and/or lifestyle and don’t give it a second thought.

drugs and alcoholWe need to stop this. Right now. The only way to prevent these deaths, famous or not, is to accept addiction for what it is, a mental health disorder, a disease, an illness and start treatment. We need to focus more on helping a substance abuser more than punishing them. Celebrities looking for causes to raise money for? Celebrities looking for causes to put a name on? How about work on breaking down the stigma around drug abuse and encouraging people to come out of their hiding places and help remove a lot of the shame and secrecy that comes with drug use.

These deaths are preventable. For the rich and the famous, the poor and the lowly, and everyone in between.

* www.stopaddiction.com

** www.drugwarfacts.org

*** http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2011/07/05/ten-years-after-decriminalization-drug-abuse-down-by-half-in-portugal/

An Open Letter to Mayor Rob Ford – A Political Review

Dear Mr. Ford,

You don’t know me. We’ve never met although I have tweeted insulting things at you before. I should start off this letter by apologizing for any hurtful thing I’ve said towards you or about you, as bullying is no way to get anywhere in this world. I am not a citizen of Toronto. I am not a constituent who has the right to vote for or against you. However, I am a Canadian. Born and bred. I was born and raised in London, Ontario, just south of your tremendous metropolis. I studied Criminology with a focus in Psychology in Ottawa, Ontario, where I currently reside and work as an Addictions Counselor. First and foremost: I love Toronto. Let me stipulate though that I never want live there. Ottawa is big and busy enough for me, but I do love your town. Every time I visit there is always something new to do and new places to explore. Many of my closest friends live in Toronto and I come down as often as I can. Secondly: I am a Toronto Maple Leafs fan. It’s hard to be a Leafs fan in a non-Leafs town, although some days it feels like there are more Leafs fans in Ottawa than there are in Toronto. While I enjoy sharing my candor and pleasure in regards to your city this letter is of a much more serious nature.

Yesterday, on November 5, 2013, you admitted to the media outlets that you have smoked crack-cocaine, and that you don’t remember doing so because you were in a drunken stupor. The only thing surprising about this announcement was the timing. With multiple reliable news outlets sourcing the existence of a video of you smoking crack-cocaine months ago, it wasn’t hard to believe that it had happened. With the multiple drug busts associated with some of your associates in the summer, it wasn’t hard to believe it had happened. With the recent extortion charges and surveillance footage surrounding your friend and possible colleague Alexander Lisi, it wasn’t hard to believe it had happened. What was hard to believe was how easily you were able to admit to this occurrence after months of vehemently denying it.

It doesn’t concern me that you smoked crack-cocaine. What concerns me is that you spent so much time, possibly money, and effort in concealing the truth from the public. You have to remember that you were lying not only to the people who voted against you, but the people who voted for you. You continue to promise that you will learn from your mistakes and change, but this is hard to believe, as you couldn’t even maintain the weight loss challenge that you promised the city you would commit to.

I am an Addictions Counsellor in high schools in Ottawa. I also serve some Grade 7 and 8 students and the other day I had a student come up to me and ask me if “crack-cocaine [was] a good drug, because Mayor Rob Ford uses it?” It pains me to think of children looking up to you as a role model, not because you smoked crack-cocaine, but that you did it in a drunken stupor and cannot admit to the fact that you have a severe drinking problem. This isn’t the first time that your drinking has gotten you in trouble. There are many documented times of you being in trouble with the law for drinking and driving, there have been domestic assault charges laid against you, and eventually dropped, that could very easily appear to be in relation to alcohol consumption.

I’m not here to call you an alcoholic. I’m not here to tell you that alcohol is bad. Alcohol in moderation is alright. But when you have a few drinks and then find yourself drunkenly stumbling down a street, posing for pictures with people without a care in the world, or find yourself at a gala or a party where people are so confused by your behaviour that they assume you are on drugs or drunk, or where you get so drunk that smoking crack-cocaine becomes a good idea, it is evident that you are treating alcohol as a drug and not as something to drink socially.

If you are so care free to start smoking crack-cocaine when you are in a drunken stupor, how long is going to be before you feel care free enough to get behind the wheel of a car and drive (again) in a drunken stupor? How long is it going to be before you come home late feeling care free one night and smack your wife or child around (again) in a drunken stupor? I worry, not for your safety Mr. Mayor, but for the safety of everyone else around you.

I am not calling on you to resign Mr. Mayor. I’m calling on you to be an example. Step up. Grow some Goddamn balls and speak out against alcohol abuse. Speak out against substance abuse issues. Enroll in a substance abuse program. It’s not crack-cocaine we’re worried about, it’s alcohol! Start attending Alcoholics Anonymous. You want the media to be on your side? Give them a reason to be. Step up. You have to remember that not only do you represent the city of Toronto as a Mayor, but you also represent Canada to other countries. You are the head of Canada’s largest metropolis, and are known around the world as such.  Stop being such a national embarrassment.

You have the chance that not many people have. You have the chance to be a positive role model to children. Right now the kid’s you coached football for must be devastated. But you can still be a role model to them. You can invest in them. But first you have to invest in yourself. Alcohol Abuse can lead to alcoholism and alcoholism is a disease, Mr. Mayor. Drunken stupors are not normal behaviour. Binge drinking is a sign of alcohol abuse. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel for you. For the city. For the nation. You just need to make the right choice and choose to live. I’m not saying that this option will be met without criticism. As they say: Haters are going to hate. But you have thick enough skin to handle whatever they throw at you. Gain back what little respect you actually had. Break down the stigma around substance use and abuse and: Step. The. Hell. Up. It’s on you now Mr. Mayor. The media is going to hound you. The pundits are going to criticize you. You can say everything is business as usual, but you don’t have support where you need it. This is your chance to get support, support that matters, support that can change your life, support that can change your family’s life, support that could maybe sway public opinion back in your favour. It may be too late. There’s a good chance that you will not be re-elected and that’s a reality you are going to have to face for the mistakes you have made. But you say that you are going to learn from your mistakes and grow from them? Make it more about your own health and less about a re-election campaign. You might be pleasantly surprised at what the changes may bring.

Sincerely,

Matthew Champ

Welcome to Reviews Like A Champ

HeadshotIt’s been many years since I’ve had my own review blog up and running. In the past few years I was off providing video reviews for film at Should You See It, writing film and theatre reviews for Production Ottawa, and was previewing and reviewing films every Friday morning live on 101.9 Dawg FM in Ottawa.

Before that (back in 2006) I occasionally wrote film and music album reviews for Send the Fire, however after scouring their re-designed site I see that everything before 2009 has been removed from their site… hence why I have removed their hyperlink.

I am excited to be doing reviews again – mainly because this time around I get to pick the content! I don’t plan on sitting down and reviewing the big blockbusters coming out each week in the multiplexes or reviewing the big name albums that are dropping. I don’t need to run on a timeline, or review the newest of the new. I get full content control!

It definitely doesn’t mean that everything I see or hear I’m going to like – but it really allows me to judge something on a standalone basis and not in comparison to the big box  office or the top of the charts.

Anyways – that’s it for now! Enjoy folks!

-Champ Out