Tri-Cities Community Action Team

Focus on the community lens, amplify peer voice!

Formed in:  2018
Number of members:  72
Communities served:  

Name of Town: Port Moody,  Anmore,  Belcarra,  TriCities,  Coquitlam,  Port Coquitlam,  

Unique features:

Youth Action Team and social media strategy focused on those using alone

A Q & A with Jenn Conway-Brown, Lilian Kan, Sandra J. Horton, and James Musgrave of the Tri-Cities CAT.

“This isn’t a homelessness issue, this isn’t an addiction issue. It's that the opioids that are out there are tainted, and they are killing people. And they are killing all kinds of people,” – James Musgrave, TCCAT Co-chair, Director of Counselling Programs and Services, Share Family and Community Services

Members of the Community Action Initiative team sat down with members of the Tri-Cities CAT to discuss the evolution, innovative projects, and proud moments experienced. CAT members included James Musgrave, Co-chair, Director of Counselling Programs and Services, Share Family and Community Services; Lilian Kan, General Manager, Noura Homes; Jen Conway-Brown, Harm Reduction Coordinator, Raincity Housing; and Sandra Horton, Project Coordinator TCCAT, Business Transformation Facilitator, Horton Collaborations. Here's what they had to say.

CAI: How did the Tri-Cities Community Action Team (TCCAT) form?
Sandy Horton (SH): Share Family Community Services, alongside the Tri-Cities Healthier Communities Partnership, started the initial formation, with Share stepping forward as the primary fund holder. The CAT now includes 72 key contacts with multiple stakeholder groups across the cities of Port Coquitlam, Coquitlam, Port Moody, and the villages of Anmore and Belcarra.
CAI: Who is represented within your CAT?
SH: We have a diverse set of participants, including some great representation from service providers, people who use substances, members of the general community including some local businesses, councilors, and local representatives, RCMP, as well as representation from the trades.
CAI: For the most part, is there a good awareness of addiction issues in your communities?
James Musgrave (JM): There is an assumption that everything's okay and the Tri-Cities are quiet suburban communities where everyone is kind of a middle-income earner and has a house and that we're all living happily ever after. We’re living in complete ignorance around what's actually going on here and that perception affects funding opportunities for agencies and communities like this.
Lilian Kan (LK):
    In my job, working for a builder’s company the past 11 years, I engage with men ranging from ages 20 to 50-years-old. Until I learned about this CAT, I had no idea about the overdose crisis. It’s tough in on-the-job residential construction sites because it’s not an environment that is open to this kind of discussion, it’s just not talked about. Through my time on this CAT, I’ve been able to share knowledge and increase awareness with leadership, including the site manager and project managers, by sharing overdose information like how to access take home Naloxone kits.
CAI: How are people with lived and living experience of substance use (PWLLE) involved in the CAT?
Jenn Conway-Brown (JCB): Two Peer Coordinators have been working with us the past year – focusing on harm reduction pop-ups and Naloxone training sessions. And they take part in leadership tasks as well, including supporting two core volunteers. The CAT is here to promote education and community peace and decrease stigma, which the Tri-Cities has done well, despite COVID. The pop-up events are local, temporary display tents that invite community members to learn, participate, share stories, and to be united in our ongoing efforts to raise awareness and break down social stigma around drug use and addiction issues. Each pop-up runs about 2.5 hours and is staffed by PWLLE, Frontline Service Providers, Youth Ambassadors, TCCAT stakeholders and leadership team members. The demand for THN training is always high with our last one reaching 50 new trainees.
    The peers are essential to us and it’s important that peer voices are amplified. Looking forward, one of the Peer Coordinators wants to start a peer mentorship program to enhance leadership within their group. The purpose of the peer mentorship program is to build capacity for the peers to find employment, elevate professional skills, and help fellow PWLLE.
CAI: What is something in particular that the CAT has done or achieved that you are proud of?
JM: The Youth Action Team alongside Christine McKenzie, a talented First Nations artist, has stepped up and created a wonderful overdose Compassion Art Piece. Through the project, the Youth Action Team has built community partnerships with Access Youth, Peers and Peer Coordinators, the local School District #43 and others. We're hoping to be able to move the mural around the community and put it in high profile places.
    We’ve had a relatively successful transition to social media since COVID-19. We ran a campaign targeted at men who may be using alone, who we know are at high risk of overdose. The results show the campaign had a positive impact with individuals actually seeking out TCCAT Facebook site for resources. In three months we had 125,514 views online and 193 viewers had taken some form of action.
CAI: Do you have advice for newer CATs across the province?
SH: Having the right representation at the leadership table who can make decisions and work towards inviting the right people into a relationship with our group has helped us immensely. It is really important to support the project coordinators and create two roles so that they can support each other. We had two project leads for our Youth Action Team – someone from Fraser Health and someone from Share. We found a way to amplify the peer voices and the result is a wonderful mural.
    Focus on the task at hand. It’s easy to get caught up in the dialogue that this is a socio-economic, homelessness, drug addiction, and substance use problem and some of it is, but as the numbers continue to show since the beginning of the pandemic, it’s younger to middle-aged working men who the crisis is affecting. This isn’t a homelessness issue, this isn’t an addiction issue. It's that the opioids that are out there are tainted, and they are killing people. And they are killing all kinds of people.
    Commit your time to communication and sustainable activities. In my experience, funding shifts the conversation from community collaboration to project focused. So one piece of advice is to not get wrapped up in the projects – focus on the overarching community lens.


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