South Surrey-White Rock Community Action Team

Creating connection, enhancing compassion

Formed in:  2018
Number of members:  24
Communities served:  

Name of Town: South Surrey and White Rock,  

Unique features:

Creating cross-sectoral toolkits, curriculum and multimedia resources

A Q&A with George Passmore, Ryan Nielsen, and Matthew Huot of the South Surrey and White Rock CAT.

“It can take a while to build the momentum and the spirit of a team, and the momentum for action. For it to really have impact, and the ripple effect that really makes a difference in the whole community – it’s a multi-year project,” – George Passmore, CAT Co-Chair and Program Manger of Substance Use Services at Sources Community Resources

Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with George Passmore, CAT Co-chair, Ryan Nielsen, CAT member and Matthew Huot, CAT Co-chair to discuss community collaboration and evolution of the South Surrey and White Rock CAT. Here’s what he had to say.

CAI: What prompted the initial formation of the South Surrey-White Rock Community Action Team (CAT)?
George Passmore (GP): We hosted an event called Keeping Heart in the Crisis at Peace Arch hospital with a panel of people with lived and living experience of substance use (PWLLE) describing helpful and harmful experiences with first responders after overdose. And we screened a documentary called Moments to Milestones, an education resource for first responders who interact with people who use substances. We also held a third and final event called Stop Overdose Surrey at White Rock Community Services which allowed attendees to visit any of the nine hosted tables to discuss a variety of issues that impact people who use substances and how our community can be one of compassion, understanding, and support. With over 80 people in attendance, including the White Rock Mayor and council, people who were moved by the mission decided to get involved. This generated a lot of initial enthusiasm for the CAT.
CAI: Tell us about the role people with lived and living experience of substance use play in the South Surrey-White Rock CAT.
Ryan Nielsen (RN): As a person with lived experience, I participate in the working groups to brainstorm and inform the CAT. Along with the larger CAT meetings, I’m part of the working group that meets to develop a peer support network, peer outreach, and peer navigation programs.
    We also have family member involvement – which supports our focus on reaching men in trades. We also have the South Rock Mealtime Talks (SRMT), and the Compassion Cafes in schools.
    SMRT is a series of dialogue events bringing PWLLE and families together in the spirit of deep listening to explore perspectives, beliefs, experiences, and values regarding substance use and related harms. This is done with groups such as Substance Use and Mental Health Service providers, physicians and pharmacists, first responders, as well as family members as a powerful way to bring connection and enhance compassion. In one of our dialogue sessions, a family member who lost her stepson to overdose said she wished she had known about Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) when her stepson was seeking help. This story prompted our local recovery home to seek training from the Addiction Physician in attendance at the dialogue and they have now admitted their first ever resident on OAT. Compassion Café brought high school students together to explore how they can address stigma and increase compassion and connection in their school cultures.
Matthew Huot (MH):
    We've been mindful of the importance of including people with lived and living experience of substance use in all aspects of the CAT, especially the working groups. For example, our youth-led Compassion Café program is at Elgin Park Secondary, wherein youth have conversations with parents, other caregivers, and school staff around substance use and mental health. It’s on hold now but a Youth Advisory Group developed a curriculum, created promotional materials, and planned events based on the Development Framework of Relationships from the Search Institute.
CAI: There is a representative from the local OAT clinic who participates in CAT meetings. Tell us more about their involvement.
GP: Yes, they’re very good at listening to the challenges and struggles of the people they serve. Their involvement with the CAT has been helpful in terms of recognition of the need for awareness of OAT in general. A local physician has offered to provide training and education to the general practitioners in our area because there's very little substance-use awareness in our community.
CAI: Can you describe a success that your CAT has been able to achieve or celebrate? Maybe a project you’re really proud of or a personal story?
GP: I am proud that we were able to get White Rock Mental Health, the OAT Clinic, and the 12-step, abstinence-based recovery house together in conversation, resulting in a paradigm shift. There was a respectful exchange of knowledge, a deep listening to each other, and appreciation for how the strengths of each can meet people where they are. For an abstinence-oriented recovery program to welcome their first client on OAT is a huge accomplishment.
    When we did the International Overdose Awareness Day event, we found that since the start of the overdose crisis in 2016, 50 people in South Surrey and White Rock had lost their lives. We built 50 crosses in front of City Hall to honour those lives lost. The Mayor of White Rock, Darryl Walker, Semiahmoo First Nation and the City supported the event and people came by to write names of their family members on some of the crosses. The image of these 50 crosses put everything into perspective. Having people coming by to talk to us and to share their own struggles with substance use really laid bare the impact this has and how willing our community is to come together.
    I also think it's great that the Mayor of White Rock is a part of the CAT. As a result of the city's involvement, we were awarded a grant to fund the production of a video for men in the trades. They supported several of our community events and hosted a flag-raising ceremony. The city supported drummers from Kwantlen First Nation to participate in an event and really brought it to much greater community awareness, with much more of a ripple effect in our community than we ever could have had on our own.
CAI: If you were able to give advice to a CAT that’s newly forming, what would you say?
RN: Try to work together and listen to the feedback of those with lived and living experiences. Be a team – and work as a team.
    Take the time to create a culture of safety and inclusion. Truly value all voices equally and ensure that there are maximum opportunities for participation. It can take a while to build the momentum and the spirit of a team, and the momentum for action. For it to really have impact, and the ripple effect that really makes a difference in the whole community – it’s a multi-year project.
    Find that group of people who are really committed to the cause – who will be there and support one another and will continue to work through any hurdles that come your way. This is key.


Overdose awareness on wheels – motorcade winds through White Rock



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