Name of Town: Nelson, Castlegar,
Focused on rural inclusion in community for peers in the West Kootenay region
A Q&A with Amanda Erickson of the Nelson-Castlegar CAT.
“We know that harm reduction works and has an impact. It’s important that we stay the course in this field, and don’t lose track of knowing that there are ways to shift things along,” – Amanda Erickson, Regional CAT Coordinator
Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with Amanda Erickson, Regional CAT coordinator to discuss the evolution, learnings, and proud moments experienced while working with Nelson Fentanyl Task Force and the Castlegar Fentanyl Opioid Working Group (combined as the Nelson-Castlegar CAT). Here’s what shehad to say.
We’ve been really lucky to have ANKORS West here. They’ve been a longtime social services organization in the Kootenays, addressing the AIDS crisis early on. The workers are really well respected. There’s great rapport within the organization between peers and ANKORS staff. We have a really special community here in Nelson. We have a lot of collaboration going on among organizations here.
Right around the same time as the NFTF was being formed, we formed the Castlegar CAT – the Castlegar Fentanyl Opioid Working Group/CFOWG. Nelson and Castlegar are closely linked. The main reason the CFOWG formed was to address stigma against peers, to address the underutilization of health care services, and to promote low-barrier health care services for peers.
Since we began the Nelson Fentanyl Task Force five years ago, we’ve done three major conferences and have had about 130 people attend each conference. We always start with an Indigenous opening and work closely with COINS (Circle of Indigenous Nations), which is our local regional Indigenous social service provider. We work ongoing with COINS and local Elders to provide support for everyone who is involved in the community events.
I received amazing feedback from people who attended the NFTF conference. I feel honored to be in the role and to have the opportunity to sit in these groups and to facilitate open communication. The conference was a very powerful experience. I think it was a healing experience for our community, and it helped people understand more about people who use drugs, and to understand trauma and its relationship to substance use. There’s work to be done, but it’s definitely one of the successes of NFTF.