Powell River’s Multi-Agency Community Action Team (CAT) is providing support and education to provide relief during the opioid crisis.
Kathryn Colby, Lift Community Services Community Development Manager and CAT Coordinator, discussed several initiatives that have been taken in the Powell River area to deliver services to a wide range of people.
Colby said a task force is being set up to help people responding to overdoses in the area because it has been identified as a “fairly serious loophole”.
“For example, if you were a clerk in a store and someone was using drugs in your bathroom and overdose, this is an 911 call, someone might have some naloxone, but those reactions are taking a toll on people,” Colby said. “It is very intense to react to an overdose. Since we don’t have much mental health support for people at the forefront of this crisis, we try to create almost a search and rescue style of volunteer who can be with people afterward to make sure the person who has overdosed is directed to the right place and provides a bridge of emotional support for anyone who responds after the incident. “
Colby said many people still do not have access to some of the resources available.
“It goes back to this rural setting, stigma, shame and all these things that people don’t want people to know that they may have a substance use problem,” Colby said. “We look forward to the research coming through Powell River to give us an insight into how we can better reach people.”
In addition, work on harm reduction has started in front of the Tla’amin Health Center. Colby said this started when CAT was able to immediately help people who were banned last year when COVID-19 was present in that community. She said the work continued by peers who are people who have lived with or have experience with substance use. You are able to reach out to other people who may be struggling and lack access to formal services, Colby said.
“There is a lot of evidence to suggest that peer-to-peer education is really effective,” she added, “so we support the people out there.”
Colby said efforts are being made to build a clinic room that will be available to the community and embedded in the community’s resource center. She said medical staff will be included to help people with substance problems.
CAT is aimed at young people
Another function of CAT is to talk to young people. Colby said news like “it only takes one time to die from fentanyl” is important to get passed, as well as the fact that cross-contamination can exist in any illicit substance.
“We really want to focus on saving the lives of people who may be entrenched or at risk and then helping people not to be at risk,” said Colby.
She said a program has been initiated to pick up needles in the community, adding that anyone can call to have a needle picked up. She said peers involved in the program also respond to people who work alone and can go into someone else’s private home to make sure people have harm reduction supplies, naloxone, a kind ear or one Have witnesses. The number to call is 604.414.4915, and calls between 4:00 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. will get the fastest answer time.
Colby said what CAT found out through this pandemic is that the team is able to reach substance users at the street level. She said there is an evolution in strategies to reach recreational drug users, people who use in secret – people who are still in private homes and who are substance users. Colby said this group was at greatest risk.
Substance use in Powell River continues to be a major focus for social institutions. Stuart Clark, Executive Director of Lift Community Services, stated in a recent written statement: “This is becoming more apparent now that we are in a devastating overdose crisis in BC. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the impact of the crisis, bringing the death toll in our province to a record high of 1,716 deaths. This is a 74 percent increase from 2019. Unfortunately, our community has the second highest per capita death rate in the province in the Vancouver Coastal Health Region, second only to Vancouver. “