Dawson Creek Community Action Team

Follow your gut, if it saves a life, it’s worth it

Formed in:  2019
Number of members:  21
Communities served:  

Name of Town: Dawson Creek,  

Unique features:

Strong and growing sub-group of peer educators and facilitators

A Q&A with Chelsea Mackay of the Dawson Creek CAT.

“Don't be afraid to go after what your community and peers really need. Don’t become too institutional – follow your gut. If you feel like you need something, go ahead and do it, because if it saves someone’s life, it’s worth it,” – Chelsea Mackay, Project Coordinator

Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with Chelsea Mackay, Project Coordinator, to discuss the evolution, learnings, and proud moments experienced while working with the Dawson Creek CAT. Here’s what she had to say.

CAI: So, tell us. How did your CAT initially form?
Chelsea Mackay (CM): The Dawson Creek Harm Reduction Committee identified the need for a working group to work on the opioid crisis, and so the working group started under the name COAT (Community Opioid Action Team). We worked on identifying needs in our community and applied for funding to work on these needs. We are very isolated up here in Northeastern BC, and when most people think about or hear about people dying from overdose, they think that it all happens elsewhere – overdose is not part of the northern identity, and people don’t realize it is happening here on the scale that it is.
    What really got us started as a CAT was hosting a series of World Cafés, which provided an opportunity for people to come together to discuss their needs. That was a really effective way for us to get a sense of what the community needed. It was identified that we really needed a peer group in Dawson Creek and the surrounding areas, and that work around overdose prevention and response needed to be done in this area in general.
CAI: Can you tell us how people with lived and living experience of substance use (PWLLE) are involved in your CAT?
CM: PWLLE are involved in the leadership of the CAT. We have a Peer Lead, a Peer Coordinator, and an Art of Wellness instructor who are all active participants of the CAT. We’ve grown in a lot of ways because of the founding of SNOW, the Society for Narcotic and Opioid Wellness. SNOW, which has only been in operation for a little over a year, has opened its own centre now called SNOW House and we have peers who work there. As time goes on, peers have taken on more responsibility. Our peers have been on TV doing interviews, taking part in working groups, networking with peer groups across BC, and deciding the priorities of the CAT as we move forward.
CAI: Can you share more with us about SNOW House?
CM: At SNOW House, we make and distribute Naloxone and harm reduction kits. Sometimes we have a peer who will deliver the kits to people or drive people to SNOW House to pick them up. We serve a lot of meals as well – we usually serve at least one or two hot meals a week. And we received 100 frozen meals by donation from the Northern Lights College Culinary Program. Unable to serve in their restaurant since the beginning of COVID, the cook training program decided to donate their meals to the community. So, we give people frozen meals that they can take with them to prepare. We have some amazing connections at the Northern Lights College. We also have a shower and bath program, and we have a bunch of toiletries that people can take with them as well. We serve quite a few people who are homeless and who need those services. If someone comes in and they need winter gloves, then we’ll supply them, or if someone needs bandages for treating wounds – whatever we can do. We’ve tried to make it feel like home. We are located in an old house from the 1940s and we have received so many donations from the community – furniture, cooking stuff, toiletries, housewares, even appliances. We’ve just been able to start a free laundry program for people who don’t have access. Seeing that kind of community support is so encouraging – picking up donations from people and hearing them say that they’re happy that it is going to go to our group is beautiful.
CAI: What is some advice you might give to a new CAT?
CM: Don't be afraid to go after what your community and peers really need. Don’t become too institutional – follow your gut. If you feel like you need something, go ahead and do it, because if it saves someone’s life, it’s worth it. Or even if it makes someone’s day better, it’s worth it. It’s so much better to feel good about the things you’re doing instead of feeling bad about the things you aren’t doing. Don’t let institutions or stigma drag you down. Embrace the grass roots approach and do what needs to be done.


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