Matrix Program fights addiction

Matrix Program fights addiction
The Matrix Program’s wellness team in Fort Smith: Lida Blesse, Julie Beaver, Leili Heidema and Chris Wanamaker.Photo: Meagan Wohlberg.

Combating drug and alcohol addiction is a challenge being taken on by the Matrix Program in several South Slave communities.

The program offers daily resources and support to help addiction in Fort Smith, a high school program in Fort Providence and a new program about to start up in Fort Simpson. In its fourth year in Fort Smith, Matrix is free of charge to anyone in need, and its success to date was recognized in 2010 with a Premier’s Award.

“When you are able to adapt a program to fit the needs of the community, success follows,”  said Leili Heidema, a clinical supervisor for mental heath and addictions in Fort Smith.

The program’s successes stem from a community counselling services team that is inspired to create change, and is always open to adding new  program elements based on client feedback. The program’s connection to participants is attributed in part to a spiritual approach to the healing process. Traditional Aboriginal healing methods such as talking circles and smudging are used.  Creative elements and activities such as mask-making are also incorporated, allowing staff to engage participants in different ways.

“The program mainly helps  those who are struggling with current addictions, and those who wish to maintain sobriety,” said Heidema.

The Fort Smith program begins holding daily sessions on February 8, continuing for 12 weeks through April 20. It offers 1.5-hour group sessions and bi-weekly one-on-one meetings with a counsellor.

Prospective participants must book an initial intake appointment with Community Counselling Services, located in the Jack Taylor Building, and be able to commit time from 10:30 a.m. to noon.

Carolyn Wilkes, a clinical supervisor with Deh Cho Heath and Social Services in Fort Providence, launched a modified version of the Matrix program for senior high school students on January 31.

The relapse prevention approach allows for a stable environment, which has benefited clients in Fort Smith and Fort Providence.

Fort Providence had success running a pilot version of the Matrix program in 2011, and Fort Simpson plans to run the program as soon as staffing allows.

For more information or to book an intake appointment in Fort Smith, call 867-872-6310.

For more information on programs in Fort Simpson and Fort Providence, call 867-695-3815.

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