In honour of International Harm Reduction Day on May 7, 2022, we’d like to introduce you to Derrick, a paramedic at Marymound with a passion for harm reduction work.

“My name is Derrick and I am a primary care paramedic working for Marymound on Pelletier Hope Centre (PHC), full time on the night shift. I have been with Marymound roughly 5 years.

In my current role at PHC I help with night medications, any minor injuries, and make medical decisions such as is the youth healthy enough to be on the unit vs they need a higher level of care. I offer health education to whomever wants it, youth or staff and I really like focusing on harm reduction with the youth.

I believe harm reduction is very important for our youth and our work with them due to the fact we all know our youth at times (some could say often) are in situations that could be harmful to them. It is important that we do whatever we can to reduce that harm. Harm reduction could be different things for different youth- it really depends what ‘harm’ they are experiencing, can experience or will experience.

I was once talking to a youth casually and they told me they were going to get very drunk on the weekend. With harm reduction in mind, I taught them how to put someone in the recovery position and encouraged them to teach their friends how to do it. I explained how the recovery position protects a person’s airway, which is in danger if someone is drunk and puking. A person who is unconscious and puking can easily die due to choking so the recovery is also a drainage position.

All the staff on PHC are very harm reduction-minded and many of the team members are very educated in harm reduction.

I am very passionate about helping the youth, harm reduction is a good way to do that. I have never had to justify harm reduction working with Marymound because the whole team is on board. They did harm reduction way before I showed up.

One of the challenges to me is creating that working relationship with the youth so they are open to talking to me about some of the stuff they need help with. As a paramedic, I want to help quickly, the here and now, but, as we all know, this stuff doesn’t happen quick. I meet the challenge by putting the time and effort into creating the working relationships with the youth, I count on the team to help with that, and they always do.

I do not do this alone and I am part of a fantastic team that is made up with people of various educations and experiences, which turns into the best care for the youth. My view of the work may differ from other people on the team because I view most things from a medical point of view, with the same goal as everyone- to do the best we can for these youth!

I love the youth I work for and I love the team I work with. The work we do all over Marymound, from PHC to YASU, to any of the homes is emotionally/mentally hard at times and I survive it due to the support I get from the team.

I want to thank the team at PHC (including the bosses!) for constantly helping me become better at the job. And, of course, I want to thank YASU for hiring me and getting me into Marymound in the first place.”