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Kary's Story

Kary Hannan is using her past struggles to help others. She works as a Wellness Navigator at the Mainline Needle Exchange, a project of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre. on Cornwallis Street in Halifax.

As a former client of Mainline I struggled with mental health and addiction for years. Nobody had time for me and no one would listen to my pleas for help. Working with this project has given me much more than a job. It has given me a sense of pride, a sense of well-being, a sense of understanding and passion for supporting clients through struggles.

Kary’s duties as a Wellness Navigator are brand new and proudly funded by a Mental Health Foundation of Nova Scotia Community Grant. Some of the vital services made possible through her Navigator position are:

  • Escorting clients to ID/Liver clinic, physio, emergency room, doctor and specialized appointments
  • Helping clients navigate community services to income assistance for increased monthly allowance for bus and phone support
  • Taking clients’ clothes to laundry
  • Taking clients grocery shopping
  • Escorting clients to court, probation and parole appointments
  • Escorting clients to detox, methadone and recovery programs 
  • Escorting clients to view apartments
  • Helping clients raise funds to pay rent, power bills, phone
  • Helping clients get a trustee

Kary knows many of the people she works with have addiction issues which tend to impact their mental health and well-being.

“Many are poly-drug addicted, use injectable steroids, are street involved, are homeless and/or may live in less than adequate housing,” she says.  “They are often unemployed, have less than adequate income and are involved with the criminal justice system or incarcerated in provincial and federal institutions. They do not access health care services, and many are HIV and/or Hepatitis B/C infected  and/or at risk of becoming HIV and/or Hepatitis B/C infected.”

Kary is pleased to say the Foundation’s grant allows her to support the whole person, not just the addiction.

Anna* is proof of that. She began using prescription drugs when she was 14 years old to cope with the death of her father. Her addiction led her to ‘the wrong crowd’ and she began experimenting with harder drugs.

“Because of my addiction I have lost my kids to Children’s Aid,” she says. “If it wasn’t for this program I don’t think I would know where to go. I have a hard time talking to people and getting them to listen to me.”

Kary, and the Wellness Navigation team have helped Anna obtain a birth certificate and ID. She’s now able to apply for a bank account and phone.

“I always feel comfortable coming here because they know where I come from. They don’t judge me and don’t think they are better than me. They take the time to listen and are not rushing me out the door like so many other places,” says Anna.

Kary believes the program has impacted clients both centrally and provincially, giving them control over their health and well-being.

Anna is definitely one of those people. She now lives in her own apartment. “Next, I’m going to get my GED or take some kind of course,” she says. It’s easy to see her hope for the future is real.


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*Name has been changed to protect confidentiality.


Story photography generously provided by Scott Munn, PhotoMunn.