The Emergency Department Violence Intervention Program (EDVIP.ca)made front page of the Winnipeg Free Press today. Congratulations to Dr. Carolyn Snider and her team, including Heather Tiede, Billy Dubery, Nathan Thomas, Curly Mousseau, Heather Woodward, Dale Goulet and John Armstrong!
It should be noted that many GAIN members were and are involved in this new program.
KEN GIGLIOTTI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESSThe Health Sciences Centre team includes Billy Dubery (from left), Nathan Thomas, Dr. Carolyn Snider, Curly Mousseau, Heather Woodward and Dale Goulet. Missing: John Armstrong
Stomping out youth violence
Health Sciences Centre ER launches unique program
By Larry Kusch
An HSC emergency room physician has convinced a national funding agency Winnipeg’s skyhigh rate of violence to youth should be viewed as a public health concern.
Dr. Carolyn Snider is leading a team that will begin approaching injured youth — while they’re at the trauma hospital’s adult or children’s emergency departments — to offer counselling.
Snider has received close to $900,000 from the Canadian Institute for Health Research for a two-year pilot project that will determine the value of a hospital- intervention approach based, in part, on programs in San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., and Philadelphia.
At the same time, she and her team will conduct research to determine the cost benefit of instituting a permanent program at the hospital, which could cost about $500,000 a year. The expectation is it could save society a substantial amount of money — not to mention the physical and emotional pain for the victims and their families.
Snider, who came to Winnipeg two years ago after working in a downtown Toronto emergency department, said the extent of youth violence in Winnipeg is “overwhelming at times.”
“It’s, sadly, the perfect place to do this research,” she said Monday.
Snider’s team includes five specially trained youth counsellors — adults who either experienced violence as youths or whose family was directly affected by it — a social worker and possibly mental-health and addictions workers.
A counsellor will be called to the ER when a young person seeks treatment. Young people willing to participate in the pilot project will be paired for up to a year with a counsellor, who will help them with life-skills training, identify community supports and steer them to partnering agencies for help.
TheEmergencyDepartmentViolence Intervention Program (EDVIP) will target youths aged 14 to 24. Many of the young people who wind up in ERs due to violence suffer from anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, Snider noted. Many are impoverished, lack adequate housing “and a sense of belonging.”
Not all are gang members, Snider said. The youths she treats for violent injuries represent a broad spectrum of high-risk youth.
Liz Wolff, a program manager and clinician at New Directions, said framing the problem of chronic youth violence as a health concern is “brilliant.”
“I think what (Snider is) doing is important in our community, and I think there will be huge benefit to individuals who experience violence,” said Wolff, who works with troubled youth, including gang members.
Snider, who also teaches at the U of M and conducts research with the Manitoba Institute of Child Health, said she’s gratified the national funder accepted the premise that youth violence is a national health concern.
She said the institute consulted various social agencies in drafting its successful proposal. Her project competed for funds with far more traditional health projects, such as heart research.
Assuming the pilot project produces positive results, Snider will apply to the same national institute to fund a full HSC program for five years. After that, it’s hoped government will see the benefits of picking up the tab.
GAIN members asked that we share our success stories, and this is one from Gang Awareness for Parents. I am so proud to work with 2 great guys: Nathan Thomas, (a GAIN member, now employed with Dr. Carolyn Snider’s program, EDVIP.ca), and after meeting Niigani Naabe (the subject in this article) only 48 hours before, that ended up presenting with Nathan and myself to the Islamic Social Services Association Inc.Canada at the Winnipeg Central Mosque. Thanks to Meaghan Morrish a GAIN member, for the invitation!
It is heartwarming to see these two young guys working to prevent gang involvement. HATS OFF TO YOU TWO!
Thank you also to GAIN researcher Matt Fast for attending and adding great info to the crowd’s questions.
A couple of weeks ago I wrote a story about a former Aboriginal Winnipeg street gang member named TM.
The story ran in the Winnipeg Free Press last weekend after an editor contacted me and asked if I would mind if they ran the story in the Sunday Xtra.
Of course I didn’t mind.
It was a feel good story and a rare one at that. Winnipeger’s are far more conditioned to hear stories about Aboriginal street gang members participating in horrific crimes, getting shot or being sentenced to life in prison.
When TM read the story he sent me a text message expressing his appreciation.
“Hey there I just read the article! It was awesome, you’re a great story-teller. Karma lately is exposing a different path for me. I haven’t been involved in street issues for a very long time. Your article reminded me of some of the struggles I’ve had to overcome. So thank you for that! There are so many elements to changing not just dropping that rag. Thx again, it was a great article.”
I could tell from the text message my article had touched TM. It undoubtedly provided him with the validation that his struggle to stay on a righteous path was worth the effort. I don’t imagine TM has had the benefit of much positive reinforcement in his life, no less from an ex-member of Law Enforcement.
The story only gets better.
After reading the story Floyd Wiebe, Director of GAP (Gang Awareness for Parents), contacted me and asked if I thought TM would be interested in participating in a speaking engagement for a GAP presentation at a West End Community Forum.
When I reached out to TM I was surprised at how quickly he seized the opportunity.
The event was to take place at the Winnipeg Central Mosque at 715 Ellice Ave. The presentation was going to be an informational session facilitated by the Islamic Social Services Association in partnership with the Winnipeg Foundation. I knew this was going to be a giant step for TM and I wanted to be there to show him I supported him and his efforts to stay on a good path.
When I arrived at the Mosque I met with Floyd, TM and Nathan Thomas, another ex-gang member with an equally remarkable story. As I reached out to shake TM’s hand I could see he was somewhat nervous but I also sensed he was eager to participate and share his story.
Before the presentation started I had an opportunity to learn a bit more about TM, after all, it’d been over thirteen (13) years since we’d met. In speaking with TM I’d learn the gang related murder of his best friend Adrian Bruyere was a life changing event for him. Not long after the physical and emotional wounds started to heal he realized he wanted to “drop the rag” and get out of the gang life.
In order to do so he was going to have to be “beat out,” a common street gang ritual that involves taking a beating from your fellow gang members. TM’s “beat out” was especially vicious as the rabid pack of gangsters punched, kicked and stomped him to the extent he was nearly killed. The metal plate in his head and the scars on his face are a testament to the harsh realities of a street gang exit.
For TM reconnecting with his Aboriginal culture was key to turning the page on his former life. Part of his evolution involved taking a traditional name. He is now known as “Niigani Nabbe.” In translation, the name Niigani means “leading the way,” while Naabe, from the word Anishinaabe, means “male.” When you put it all together its interpreted as, “Man who leads the way.” And so the evolution began….
The GAP presentation was well attended with approximately thirty to forty inquisitive people from the Muslim community represented in the audience.
As Floyd started working through the presentation he continually invited Nathan and Niigani to share their stories and wisdom.
Nathan was an “original gangster” and started gang banging when he was ten (10) years old. Nathan ran wild in the streets with no parental influences other than his grandmother and grandfather. Tragically, the only modicum of family he had would be gone forever when his grandmother murdered his grandfather. Life for Nathan was all about crime, drugs and money.
“When I should’ve been graduating from high-school I was graduating into the Federal Penitentiary,” he told the riveted crowd. ”What saved my life was my culture, for the very first time in my life I felt at home.”
That was five years ago.
Nathan Thomas now has a full-time job, pays taxes and speaks at community events and forums in partnership with Floyd Wiebe.
The majority of his former gang brothers are deceased.
The stories, insight and message shared by Niigani and Nathan were appreciated by the community members who attended.
After the event concluded I shook Niigani’s hand and asked him how he felt.
“I really enjoyed it, it’s a very positive thing,” he said.
As we said goodbye I challenged Niigani to “Be the difference.”