Strengthening the foundation of the home: Developing staff wellness strategies in Indigenous alcohol harm reduction services

Funding body

University of Victoria Collaborative Health Research Grant


Managed Alcohol Program staff frequently respond to critical incidents as well as witnessing traumas experienced by MAP participants in the context of ongoing colonization and structural violence. These findings are consistent with research demonstrating the need for culturally-based, trauma-informed supports for harm reduction workers with lived experience of poverty, homelessness, and/or substance dependence. Internal reviews of the Aboriginal Coalition to End Homelessness (ACEH) Indigenous Alcohol Harm Reduction Program (IAHRP) over the first 6 months of its implementation identify a critical need to support staff wellbeing in light of serious incidents, rapid and novel program implementation during a pandemic, and lived experience among IAHRP staff.

The aims of this project are to develop a staff wellness strategy for IAHRP service delivery and pilot an initial strategy for staff support, including: 1) identifying the key needs, components, and strategies to support Indigenous staff wellness in the IAHRP based on staff preferences and perspectives; 2) implementing priority staff wellness strategies; and 3) investigating the feasibility of long-term implementation and evaluation of a staff wellness plan.

Progress to date

In 2021 and 2022, seven in-depth qualitative research interviews were held with family members and 17 interviews with staff, including leadership, managers, and frontline workers. The research team also led a sharing circle-focus group with six Indigenous Elders and Cultural Workers. Through these interviews and gatherings, staff shared their perspectives and recommendations on the IAHRP while also identifying several key needs, challenges, and recommendations to support staff wellness for frontline workers and Indigenous staff at the CSH. Using these initial recommendations, the ACEH has implemented a series of new staff training orientations and emergency response training, and has increased the availability of cultural programming available to staff. In the coming year a survey will be sent to the staff at ACEH to request their feedback on the current training and cultural opportunities available to them. Analysis of these data will allow ACEH to further refine their staff wellness strategy.