Over the past few years artist and photographer, Jeff Bierk has worked on creating a photo series entitled “Behind the Curtain”. His series tells the true story of addiction and what it feels like to be in the shoes of someone who is struggling. His artwork has been on display at the Glenhyrst Museum for a few months now, and the message Bierk’s art communicates is one Brantford knows all too well.
In order to push the discussion forward, the Glenhyrst and the Freedom House hosted a panel last Wednesday where experts in our community sat alongside Bierk and discussed pressing issues such as opioid addiction and the rise of fentanyl – issues that many of us try to ignore in order to sleep at night. What many are easily able to ignore, though, is the daily life of someone we walk past on the street.
“They have the same wants and needs just like everybody else, and they want acceptance just like everybody else,” said Tim Phillip, the director of the Rosewood House, a local shelter.
The truth is, Brantford is one of the top three cities in all of Canada for opioid poisoning rates, and fentanyl is no stranger to this area, yet there is still so much that isn’t being done. Brantford does not have a single safe injection site.
“We’re in a crisis, let’s treat this like a crisis,” Bierk said. “I think we have to look at policy, I think we have to do the practical thing to respond to a crisis like this. Where I’m from, in Toronto and Peterborough people are dying daily. The response should be what can we do immediately to make sure people aren’t dying.”
This is an issue that affects us all, and it’s an issue that we, the students, have a say in.
“You’ve got to choose between being powerless and doing something,” Dave Carrol, pastor and staff at the Freedom House, said.
Currently, municipal funding does little to support the local opioid and fentanyl crisis, and without any action, this problem isn’t going to go away.
As legal adults currently residing in Brantford, students can make an active change. It’s as simple as contacting a city councilor with concerns, voting in favour of change for the next election and even donating time or money to local organizations such as the food bank, the Why Not Youth centre, the Rosewood House, and The Kindness Project – all local initiatives dedicated to making a difference in our community.
If you or someone you know uses opioids, be sure to use safely and to be prepared for a possible overdose. Local organizations and even local pharmacies are all locations where naloxone kits are available and in many cases are even free. Additionally, if needed, the Rosewood House and the Why Not Youth centre are both places where you can find food and shelter.
“Strategically, the more stabilizing factors you can add to anyone in crisis or at risk of crisis,” said Becca McLellan, director of the Why Not Youth centre. “It helps.”