Jayce Carver, the executive director of W.E Trans Support in Windsor, speaks with CTV News on Monday, Aug.17, 2020. (Ricardo Veneza/CTV Windsor)

Thousands of dollars in federal emergency funds are being put to use in Windsor-Essex to help a vulnerable group access addiction care and to tackle the associated stigmas.

Over the summer, W.E. Trans Support received $61,000 through federal emergency funding to launch a harm reduction chemical dependency program, which officially launched on Sept. 14.

“I’m going to say this could be someone’s first touchstone to recovery,” said Jayce Carver, the executive director of W.E. Trans Support.

The new program will provide approximately 25 hours of in-person counselling and groups for 36 weeks — totalling an estimated 740 service interactions.

For Carver, getting the program up and running is personal.

“I never thought when I was teaching inclusivity practices for trans-identified healthcare when it comes to addictions services, I’d ever be back in another addictions centre myself,” said Carver.

The team at the support group began writing up the application for funding after seeing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and Carver’s own experience with relapse earlier this year.

Over the winter, Carver began using again and trying to hide her struggles as she worked through multiples life crises — including caring for her ailing mother.

“I had a really negative self-narrative again,” said Carver. “I’m a trans woman who stands up on stages in front of hundreds of people that talks about self-love and acceptance and internalized transphobia and combating that and I was back in a place where I believed that I was a failure.”

Carver says the LGBTQ2+ community is at higher risk of substance abuse and feels the program could help hundreds of people in Windsor-Essex.

The federal money will help to hire new counsellors and outreach workers to meet those in need where they’re at, both physically and mentally.

“There’s lots of different services in the city but, there’s nothing like this one where we’re basically meeting the client, we’re actually getting them to communicate with us what treatment they need,” said Lacie Krzmien, one of the new outreach workers at W.E Trans Support.

Krzmien says the opportunity to provide a safe place for the LGBTQ2+ community to access addiction care will fill a gap in substance use treatment because many within the community don’t feel comfortable accessing main stream services.

“What we can do is bridge that gap and end the stigma and let them know that there is a place for them to get treatment,” said Krzmien.

Ahead of the Sept. 14 launch, Carver said the program was already working through a waitlist as she sees the program fill a gap in addiction supports in the region.

Carver intends for the program to be individualized for each person walking through the door, to remove any shame from the equation and provide the necessary level of care on a pathway to recovery.

“It’s about building a life,” said Carver. “For me, it’s about being able to return to work, to be able to be a part of my family again, to be able to look at myself in the mirror and have some confidence again — that’s what recovery is to me.”

Carver said her mother has pulled through and she is working with her own supports to maintain her recovery.