Sunshine Coast Community Action Team

Tearing down barriers

Formed in:  2019
Number of members:  39
Communities served:  

Name of Town: Gibsons,  Roberts Creek,  Sechelt,  Sunshine Coast,  

Unique features:

An incubator for connections and education around substance use and harm reduction for a wide variety of stakeholders

A Q&A with David Croal, Megan Burrows, and Ele Molnar of the Sunshine Coast CAT.

“It’s okay to take it slow at the beginning, to really see where everyone is coming from, and to find common ground by setting clear goals,” – Eleonora Molnar, Steering Committee Member

Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with Eleonora Molnar, Steering Committee Member, David Croal, Gibsons Council Member, and Megan Burrows, previous CAT coordinator, to discuss the evolution, learnings, and proud moments experienced while working with the Sunshine Coast CAT. Here’s what they had to say.

CAI: Can you speak to some initiatives the CAT has implemented?
David Croal (DC): We coordinated Naloxone training, and over 200 people have been trained to administer Naloxone, by people with lived and living experience of substance use (PWLLE) on the Sunshine Coast. Another initiative, SPARC BC, provided an extremely generous donation of 40 cellphones. The individuals who received the phones either self-identified or were identified by staff and community providers as needing one. These cell phones were handed out in the community and subsidized housing units. They were not only a great way to stay connected but also a great way to promote the use of the Lifeguard App.
Eleonora Molnar (EM):
    Another initiative was the emergency overdose prevention tent which was established at Raincity Sechelt Shelter. The tent was put up by people with lived and living experience of substance use as a signal that we need a more sustainable site in place as soon as possible. Peer outreach workers quickly brought to our attention that Raincity is not ideal because some individuals who cannot access the shelter or are banned from the shelter, cannot access this lifesaving service. Since then, we have moved the site from the shelter property to a nearby location. Now, those members who aren’t welcome at the shelter are still welcome at the OPS where they can get warm and dry which is so necessary.
CAI: How are people with lived and living experience of substance use involved in the CAT?
Megan Burrows (MB): The CAT has two peers on the Steering Committee and engages in monthly meetings with peers in and outside of CAT meetings. All work related to the safe consumption site is peer-led with a Peer Scheduler in a part time position. Through the various trainings, we are hoping to introduce more workshops around equity and career-building for those peers who are interested.
CAI: Can you speak more to some of the trainings offered to peers?
MB: We piloted a Sunshine Coast Safe Consumption Hotline, suggested by the Sunshine Coast Homelessness Action Committee, that ran for eight weeks. The purpose of the phoneline was to prevent overdose deaths by having a peer with lived substance use experience witness via phone, so the user is not alone. Five peers who had been working in OPS completed the Mental Health First Aid training and staffed the phones from 6:00pm to 3:00am, 7 days a week, which are peak overdose hours. When someone calls, it is answered by one of these peers and the user identity remains confidential. If the user chooses not to identify their location, the peers may re-direct them to the Lifeguard App.
CAI: If you were to give one piece of advice to a newly formed CAT, what would you say?
EM: I’d say take your time. Take it slow. Try to get each other’s perspectives by listening. It’s okay to take it slow at the beginning, really see where everyone is coming from and find common ground by setting clear goals. Find ways to work together. This will look different from CAT to CAT. Most importantly, respect each perspective and the various insights that come to the table.
    Utilize the diverse skillset of the people who come to the table. You look around the table and you see people who are passionate and have a lot of insight – use it! Getting people to work together, to find common ground, will ultimately form a strong committee dedicated to tearing down barriers.


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