Quebec is ready to Advance
By Jonathan Bacon - Intervention Development Coordinator, RÉZO
In Montréal, Advance was able to hit the ground running. Our specific context made it so that much of our formative research had already been done: we were able to mine the massive MOBILISE! databank, all the while relying on recent RÉZO community surveys and strategic planning to establish preliminary areas of focus. Even now, as we’re elbow deep in this year’s development, more data is streaming in from our ENGAGE cohort. Last spring, we also coordinated an online survey into the needs of bisexual men. The survey reached around 70 bisexual men from all around Quebec, and their needs were clearly stated: most of them clearly stated a wish for psychological support, and named issues with self-esteem and their body image. During the summer, we associated with local researcher Joanne Otis (MOBILISE, SPOT, Oméga) to develop our skills in intervention mapping. Finally, this fall, we’re repurposing ENGAGE’s community engagement committee into a semi-permanent and compensated community consultation mechanism for the organization’s various projects!
From all that information, a few priorities became clear: we would focus on supporting the mental health of our communities, on peer-support programs, on fostering culturally competent health care (including in local detention centers) and on promoting access to PrEP. Alongside this, of course, we would expand our current testing activities, keep up our outreach with the sex work community, and continue working on various campaigns promoting consent and raising awareness about violence in same-sex couples, to name only a few.
Our biggest project by far seeks to promote access to mental health services and psychotherapy for our clientele, and should see the light of day in early 2019. Borrowing several elements from HIM’s Take Time / HIM Helps programs, RÉZO offers space to private mental health practitioners – in exchange, they accept clients referred by RÉZO at rates determined by RÉZO. Partnerships are also developing with local practicum students to offer free counselling services to more vulnerable men. The RÉZO / Advance team also wants to put together, in early 2019, a team of dedicated peers whose life experiences have led them along different paths – these peers would be identifiable, public, and serve as outreach agents to connect with communities we have yet to serve.
If this year was any indication, we’re in for a busy 5 years!