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OPSEU members raising awareness and funds for peer-to-peer support services


Two media outlets reported on OPSEU members who toured communities in northwestern Ontario to raise funds and recruit volunteers for the non-profit group Boots on the Ground, which provides peer-to-peer support to frontline workers.

The Thunder Bay Chronicle-Journal and the Kenora Daily Miner and News reported on the “Peers Need Peers” campaign, which was spearheaded by OPSEU members Mike Lundy, Sharon Bak and Joe Lozer, and supported by our members in Region 7. They were also joined by Boots on the Ground founder Dave McLennan and Badge of Life representative, Derek Wilson.

The “Peers Need Peers” campaign made stops in Fort Frances, Kenora and Dryden before the final stop last Thursday in Thunder Bay outside the OPSEU Region 7 office. OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas joined members, first responders, volunteers, local dignitaries and the public for the wrap-up event.

“As a registered practical nurse who started my career at the Ontario Psychiatric Hospital in Kingston, I have seen first-hand how critical peer-to-peer support is to the recovery and well-being of frontline workers,” Thomas said. “The key is connecting with someone who has been in your shoes.”

Boots on the Ground is run entirely by volunteers who offer 24/7 peer support to any frontline worker who is healing from a traumatic event. While the program gives support to workers across Ontario, it is currently only able to give in-person support in the Greater Toronto Area. It is looking to expand in-person support throughout the province.

Peer-to-peer support not only helps with healing, but it also has the wider benefit in cutting down on the reliance of hospital stays, medication and social services. In turn, this eases the strain on our health care system and helps keep costs down.

Since its launch eight months ago, Boots on the Ground has received 190 calls for support. Interest in this service is growing throughout Ontario and across Canada.