Five Questions with Patrick Ward and Dave Selvage

The City of Langley and Township of Langley are collaborating to reduce stigma and enhance harm reduction initiatives in Langley. In March 2020, they received a Municipal Community Wellness and Harm Reduction grant to collaborate on enhancing Langley’s Rig Riders program in partnership with Lookout Society.

Rig Riders is a peer based team that provides mobile needle recovery, overdose response, and harm reduction supplies via bicycle in Surrey and Langley. It is an important community-based service that facilitates the proper collection and disposal of discarded needles, provides community support, referrals, and fosters positive relationships with local businesses and residents while providing peers with employment.

We caught up with Dave Selvage from the City of Langley and Patrick Ward from the Township of Langley to ask five questions related to Rig Riders.

1. In your opinion, what is the strength of partnering municipalities and community-based organizations together? What do you think the collaboration between The City of Langley, the Township of Langley and Lookout Society can make possible?

Cross-sectoral partnerships like that between the City and Township of Langley and Lookout Housing and Health Society leverage the different strengths of both the public and non-profit sectors.  When it comes to the opioid crisis, local governments can provide coordination and leadership, while non-profits are able to provide content expertise and deliver services directly to community members.  Bringing these roles together, coupled with support from Fraser Health, facilitates more effective community health interventions, and the partnership between the City and Township facilitates collaborative action and coordinated services across jurisdictional boundaries.

2. Can you tell us more about the harm reduction scene in Langley? Does Rig Riders fit into a larger scene, and how might Rig Riders be different than other programs that are also operating in Langley, or in BC in general?

Operated by Lookout, Rig Riders is a peer-based team that provides mobile needle recovery, overdose response, and harm reduction supplies on their bicycles.  Rig Riders is one of many harm reduction initiatives in Langley.  Fraser Health and numerous community-based service agencies are working collaboratively to deliver education sessions, enhance drug checking services and naloxone training, and reduce stigma, among other initiatives.  Most community harm reduction initiatives are coordinated through the Langley Community Action Team, which has cross-sectoral representation from numerous local organizations, and includes direct participation by people with lived and living experience.

3. How does a program like Rig Riders address and work to reduce stigma?

As a peer based program, Rig Riders helps to breakdown commonly-held stereotypes about people with lived and living experience.  This unique employment program allows peers to directly engage with the community, fostering positive relationships with local businesses and residents.

4. In many cases, Peers/People with lived and living experience are not paid for their labour and expertise, nor recognized for their front-line work during the overdose emergency. Can you explain why payment for Peers is so important in a program like Rig Riders?

As a community, Langley values people with lived and living experience for their context expertise, and unique perspective and insight they bring to the overdose emergency. This is highlighted by our peer team’s recent development of their Peer Orientation Toolkit, which was developed by peers for peers to help guide attendance, participation and involvement for people with lived or living experience with the Langley Community Action Team. Providing peers involved with Rig Riders payment for their services, shows the peers that we value the work they do for our community, empowering them and helping them to continue to strengthen their engagement with our community.

5. What have been some of the challenges and learnings so far (big or small)?

Unfortunately, another public health emergency has delayed our ability to fully launch our project.  That said, we are fortunate that all of the project partners remain committed to this work, communicate regularly, and are open to flexibility in the approach.  We look forward to getting started on this important work as soon as possible.