Abbotsford Community Action Team

Advocating for the area’s most marginalized

Formed in:  2018
Number of members:  7
Communities served:  

Name of Town: Abbotsford,  

Unique features:

Collaboration with local police and the implementation of Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT ) in jail cells.

A Q&A with Kim Friesen and Sgt. Kevin Murray of the Abbotsford CAT.

“We just take them by the hand, and we make sure they’re getting where they need to go,” – Kim Friesen, Executive Director, CEDAR Outreach Society of BC

Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with Kim Friesen, Executive Director, CEDAR Outreach Society of BC, and Sgt. Kevin Murray, CAT Co-Chair, to discuss the evolution, learnings, and proud moments experienced while working with the Abbotsford CAT. Here’s what they had to say.

CAI: When you reflect, how is it that you feel the Abbotsford Community Action Team (CAT) has been able to evolve?
Kevin Murray (KM): Out of frustration that nothing seemed to be happening in relation to the overdose crisis. Originally, several stakeholders including representations from the City of Abbotsford, Abbotsford Police Department (APD), Abbotsford Fire Rescue, as well as colleagues in Fraser Health formed the CAT. Following the formation, we developed a standalone program called Project Angel in partnership with the APD that fully became the CAT. In order for Project Angel to continue to grow it has evolved into its own non-profit society called CEDAR Outreach Society (as of February 2021).
CAI: So often, it’s discontent with a situation that actually manages to catapult us forward. Tell us more about Project Angel.
Kim Friesen (KF): The clients of Project Angel – an initiative aimed at combatting the opioid crisis – are men and women aged 19 and up who live in the Abbotsford and Mission area and who are struggling with addiction and/or homelessness. The goal of Project Angel is that we respond very quickly when needed in an urgent situation. The peer support worker will sit down and chat with individuals on the street and ask outright: “What do you need? What’s the next thing you want to accomplish in your life?”. If it’s as simple as “I need to get into a shelter”, then we’re going to make some phone calls. And that’s often what happens. Roadside patrol calls me and says: “Buddy’s out here and he’s soaking wet. What can you do?” I’ll go out there and call around until I can find a shelter bed. I’ll transport them. I’ll give them a voucher to a local thrift store for some clean clothing – you know, just like that on-the-spot stuff that needs to be done. We just take them by the hand, and we make sure they’re getting where they need to go.
CAI: How are people with lived and living experience of substance use (PWLLE) involved in the CAT?
KF: Moving forward with our new society, we have made it clear in our bylaws that all support worker positions will be filled by people with lived and living experience. We have space to do check-ins to make sure everyone is okay in their recovery, is practising self-care, and is in a good headspace. I'm well aware of the need to look after each other so we all talk very openly about things. My goal is to have room for people who are at different levels of substance use working for us in appropriate positions.
CAI: In what ways does stigma show up in your community?
KF: Addiction is still seen as either a choice or a moral failure. It’s still not widely recognized as a mental health issue. People are often thought of as homeless because they want to be. The truth is, in all the years I’ve done this, I’ve only met two people who are actually outside because they want to be.
CAI: When you look back on where you are today as a CAT, what successes do you celebrate?
KM: The single biggest success in my opinion is the existence of Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) in jail cells. To have a civilian say to the police: “Hey, you need to bring drugs willingly into cells” and police to listen is amazing. Kim was able to convince everyone in positions from the Police Chief on down that this was a good idea. We were right there, next to Vancouver, in being the first in the province to initiate something like this.
    I have most recently been making inroads in the jails around reintegration into the community for offenders. We’re able to pick people up when they’re released, ensure that they have their prescriptions in place, connect them with pharmacies in town – all of those kinds of things. Because typically they’re released with nowhere to go and without their prescriptions. We’re able to connect and participate in release plans. It’s a start and it’s been really well received.


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