Grand Forks Community Action Team

Peer rights are human rights

Formed in:  2019
Number of members:  20
Communities served:  

Name of Town: Grand Forks,  

Unique features:

Collaborating with rural community to improve social stabilization and access to healthcare for people

A Q&A with Amanda Erickson and Alex Sherstobitoff of the Grand Forks CAT.

"Working towards social stabilization benefits the community as a whole – social stabilization is for everyone!" – Amanda Erickson, Regional Community Action Team Coordinator

Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with Amanda Erickson, Regional CAT coordinator and Alex Sherstobitoff, Rise Up Community Engagement /ANKORS to discuss the evolution, learnings, and proud moments experienced while working with the Grand Forks CAT. Here’s what they had to say.

CAI: What did the initial formation of your CAT look like?
Amanda Erickson (AE): The Grand Forks Community Action Team (GFCAT) was formed in response to the overdose crisis, and is comprised of healthcare workers, emergency responders, and other community members. GFCAT has been meeting regularly since 2019, building membership and building relationships. It’s been a long road, especially being a small and remote community. We continue to meet consistently with diverse stakeholders including healthcare, social service, Indigenous services, city council, paramedics, peers, and peer advocates.
Alex Sherstobitoff (AS):
    Some community leaders don’t want to engage with harm reduction, and that’s a big reason why it was important to get this group going - to reduce the stigma on substance use and harm reduction.
CAI: Can you tell us about some successful initiatives?
AS: As simple as it sounds, connecting with People with Lived and Living Experience of substance use (PWLLE) – peers – and having them participate at large tables like the social service meetings is a massive success. Once hierarchy is established in a small community, that hierarchy is difficult to break into. Peers learning that their voice is a tool and their experience is valuable in the context of the greater community is so important.
    We are constantly trying to learn more about the needs of the community and to increase healthcare services that will improve the quality of life and reduce risk of overdose death for people in Grand Forks. This includes the provision of Naloxone training to the wider community. In 2019, CAT members from COINS and ANKORS collaborated to provide a Train the Trainer Naloxone event in Grand Forks. This event was well received and helped with that key allyship component we’re always trying to work on. With support from Nelson Fentanyl Task Force member firefighters, Grand Forks Fire and Rescue members now carry Naloxone. We were happy that we could play a role in facilitating this important step to improve emergency services in Grand Forks. In 2021, we had a GFCAT member go around to businesses offering information around Naloxone training and she reported back that she was welcomed, and more than before, people were open and receptive. The goal of the CAT is to figure out how to strengthen allies. Working towards social stabilization benefits the community as a whole. Social stabilization is for everyone.
    ANKORS and GFCAT members and local Grand Forks social service and healthcare workers have pushed tirelessly throughout the year to secure access to basic needs for peers. In the wake of the pandemic, we had to cancel our educational conference, so we reallocated the funds toward food security in 2020. We were able to improve local food access by directing $10,000 in Grand Forks CAT funding to the Boundary Community Food Bank Society and Whispers of Hope Benevolence Association as an emergency response in the pandemic. GFCAT members and ANKORS collaborated with the Vulnerable Populations group and the local Social Services Advisory Group in Grand Forks last year. Grand Forks opened a warming center/winter shelter in response to the lack of housing and the need to respond to the cold winter temperatures. To have city council members advocating for the shelter is important for Grand Forks. GFCAT is helping people understand that harm reduction is a possible route to recovery. People are becoming advocates for the human rights of peers in this community and it is a step in the right direction.


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