Mission Community Action Team

Unseen Heroes

Formed in:  2018
Number of members:  33
Communities served:  

Name of Town: Mission,  Hatzic,  Dewdney,  Deroche,  St'ailes,  

Unique features:

Diverse membership, strong peer network, relationship with rural community, committed collaboration of community partners, and strong relationship with downtown business owners.

A Q&A with Kat Wahamaa, Zeek Lawrence De Vos, and Cody Groeneveld of the Mission Overdose CAT (MOCAT).

“It’s a rough road – don’t be afraid of it,” - Zeek Lawrence De Vos, Peer Coordinator, MOCAT

Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with Kat Wahamaa, CAT Coordinator, Zeek Lawrence De Vos, Peer Coordinator and Cody Groeneveld, representative from Mission Community Services to discuss the evolution, learnings, and proud moments experienced while working with the MOCAT. Here’s what they had to say.

CAI: Can you tell us how the Mission CAT originally formed?
Kat Wahamaa (KW): The Mission CAT was established as a community-driven collaboration prior to funding, around the Opioid Overdose Crisis. Public Health introduced the idea of a CAT to provide a coordinated response to the overdose crisis to the Mission Outreach Support Team (MOST) and a group of dedicated service providers responded. The name was initially Mission Community Addictions Action Team (MCAAT), which we changed because we're not working on addictions, we’re working on the overdose crisis. One of the first projects for MCAAT was collaborating with several community agencies who had received CAI funding to establish Naloxone distribution sites in the rural and remote areas surrounding Mission.
CAI: How are people with lived and living experience of substance use (PWLLE) involved in the CAT?
KW: We developed an outdoor garden center through our CAI funding in partnership with In-Phase Clinic who provided the land and space. The project is led by Zeek and staffed by PWLLE. All peers are compensated for their time working on projects, planning, and in meetings.
Zeek Lawrence De Vos (ZDV): I oversaw the development, tending, and recruitment of our outdoor community garden and the team was made up completely of people with lived experience – using and not using. I found a solid group of people who were willing to commit to the projects. Everybody needs a chance. Everybody needs a second shot. Everybody needs a fourth shot. In this line of work, when someone falls, you must be there to dust their knees off, pick them up, and help them start again.
Cody Groeneveld (CD): We have some key ambassadors called the Mission Community Peers. We meet once a week. They are an advocacy group who essentially started handing out harm reduction supplies about six years ago very discreetly, in Mission, because they realized there is an uptick in the overdoses and people weren't being safe in their substance use practice. They've been working and representing this movement the entire time. They are the unseen heroes and they just don’t get enough credit. There is one person who comes to the MOCAT table as the representative on behalf of all the peers. She shows up with a binder of information about anything from housing to overdose and a backpack full of THN kits, harm reduction supplies. We’re lucky to have someone so passionate be a part of our team.
CAI: We understand you have programs tailored to the specific needs of youth. Can you tell us more about those?
CD: We have the Mission Youth House. It’s a safe place where at-risk youth can drop in and receive the supports they need – a number of the youth do use. We don’t encourage youth to be on the ground in the emergency shelter because of safety concerns, so we’re looking to create a specific Youth Overdose Prevention Site (OPS), a safe space that they can use. If we can mitigate any potential harm to youth and do it while engaging in ethical practice, then we have to try.
KW: The Youth OPS is a focus for us, creating opportunities for youth peers to work at the OPS as well as create a Youth Harm Reduction toolkit. The Youth Peer Team, are designing harm reduction toolkits and workshops and social media efforts to reach out to other young people between the ages of 15 to 30 years. This includes going to schools and seeking out youth who have been in and out of foster care. We’re trying to focus on intergenerational interaction as well. One of our projects was the creation of a video called Save a Life, Talk About It, which was a take on the Bee Gees’ Stayin’ Alive (www.youtube.com/watch?v=uomSUmaqiic). It features different people on Main Street holding up signs with overdose stats on them, which was an engaging way for everyone to come together to raise awareness.
CAI: Tell us about a success your CAT has been able to celebrate?
ZDV: In partnership with Moms Stop the Harm, we co-hosted a screening of the documentary Flood: The Overdose Epidemic in Canada in March, 2020 as a call to inspire others to act. The look on people’s faces after the video finished was epic.
KW: We made huge inroads in the business community with The Masks We Wear initiative. This arts-based dialogue project we facilitated, was a big highlight for me. The mixed media artworks were created by 48 community members from ages 17 to 72, many with lived experience – including peers, family members, some service providers, and other interested community members. We reached out to the business community in the downtown, inviting them to display the artwork during the week of International Overdose Awareness Day (IOAD). This project helped develop greater understanding and interest by the Downtown Business Association to participate in IOAD next year. We created a 2021 calendar using the images of the artwork as well as photos from our community garden and work at the Farmer’s Market which chronicles the work of the MOCAT in 2020.
CAI: What is one lesson your CAT has learned over the years?
ZDV: It’s a rough road – don’t be afraid of it.
KW: I think it’s critical to have people with lived and living experience of substance use involved – and that includes family members and people who use substances. It’s important to have a CAT Coordinator and a Peer Coordinator working together – the peer voice is so necessary. Peers need to be leading the charge and once you have PWLLE and community members all chatting in the room it really humanizes people.
CAI: What are some of your ideas around sharing knowledge?
KW: I think having CATs communicating among one another is so important. Looking at what others are doing is crucial. We’ve had large provincial CAT meet-ups in the past but the best part of those are the breakouts, when you get to chat with people in small groups. Sharing resources, experiences and joy – because we have all of these things!


Screening of Flood: The Overdose Epidemic in Canada comes to Mission



Mission City Record

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It’s more like poisoning, rather than overdosing



Mission City Record

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Masks We Wear




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