OPEN Profiles

The Overdose Prevention and Education Network’s (OPEN) goal is to activate mental health and substance use service providers across British Columbia to respond to opioid overdoses within their communities, equip them with overdose prevention education and response tools, and ultimately reduce harm to people who use opioid drugs.

To view profiles of OPEN grantees, click on a Health Authority below to begin.


 


Fraser Health

BEAP (Business Engagement Ambassador Program)

BEAP was created in 2018 after a meeting of the Abbotsford Drug War Survivors, with over 100 homeless and drug using Abbotsford citizens present. BEAP emerged from people with lived and living experience (PWLLE)—as PWLLE were already voluntarily doing the work (without proper supplies and protocols) and because many felt they wanted an opportunity to step back into some form of employment (even if just a casual volunteer labour pool that they can join when they are having a good moment). The homeless/drug using community are not so much ‘engaged’ as much as they are leading, processing and communicating every decision, and shaping the project as they go. Between meetings, to crisis, to the small details, drug using/homeless citizens and the community are collaborating everything

BEAP is peer-led, all decisions are brought to the stewarding group of PWLLE and made using a consensus model, if anyone is not in agreement then a decision does not move forward and requires more conversations. This may sound like a very difficult task; however, we have found that it works well and challenges folks to work together and have meaningful conversations that continue to move the project forward.

Groups Served

Those who use substances or have used substances across all demographics

Overdose Response Work

  • Supporting/partnering with other harm reduction, poverty reduction and homelessness initiatives in the community (i.e., Naloxone training, safe consumption sites, other peer support programs in the community, outreach and education, harm reduction supplies distribution)
  • Providing ongoing peer mentorship opportunities for those who have experience with drug use and homelessness.
  • Harm reduction through youth development and education (specifically youth that have experience with foster care, mental health, drug use, and homelessness).
  • Providing opportunities for dialogs, workshops, and conferences around drug use, homelessness, etc.

Ridge Meadows Overdose Community Action Table

The Ridge Meadows (RM) CAT was established in response to increased overdoses in the community. The CAT received funding from the OERC to continue this work in 2016. The CAT members have collaborated in developing a community-based response to the opioid overdose crisis, by identifying challenges and addressing gaps as they arise. The RM CAT is a collaboration of Peers with lived and living experience, MSTH, SD42, outreach teams, housing/substance use service providers, the Health Authority, community members and agencies creating opportunities to support action towards reducing stigma, compassion, building and inclusion in projects to reduce overdose deaths within Maple Ridge/Pitt Meadows.

The CAT is a coalition co-chaired by a Community Service provider and Peer. A leadership team determined by expression of interest from the larger committee guides the table. It is comprised currently of individuals from: the Host financial agency, Peer Network, Alouette Addictions, Fraser Health, RainCity and the CAT coordinator. Decisions regarding funding, projects and CAT activities are determined on a consensus-based model during regular CAT meetings. The committees report to the entire coalition monthly during CAT meetings and in the CAT newsletter. The Leadership committee and project/activity committees are open to all members

Groups Served

  • Youth – engagement and opportunities for conversation
  • Peer network – Identified needs for harm reduction resources and necessities, capacity building
  • Our focus with this funding supporting the community conversation around stigma, trauma and resilience

Overdose Response Work

  • Inclusion and engagement of Peers in projects
  • Supporting peer network connections
  • Capacity building support for local peer organizations

Stó:lō Service Agency (SSA)

Sto:lo Service Agency began its response to the overdose crisis in 2018 when CAI partnered with the City of Chilliwack, Fraser Health Authority, and Chilliwack Healthier Community. SSA’s involvement in the Chilliwack overdose crisis began four years ago with the Community Action Initiative (CAI) partnership with the City of Chilliwack, Fraser Health and Chilliwack Healthier Community. Over 50 local agencies were involved in the original working groups, including first responders, police, downtown security, health professionals and community agencies.

In its inception, the greatest strength was the diverse numbers of stakeholders with a common goal. While the work has continued with Fraser Health and SSAS,

SSA is a single organization, but Fraser Health is an excellent partner as the primary purveyors of services. The decisions regarding patient care are made by Fraser Health and a significant amount of the preventative work is being done at SSA, so the decisions are made in-house.

As a First Nations service organization, SSA have strong ties with 26 local First Nations groups. As well as strong collaboration with front-line work at Fraser Health. The 50 partners in Chilliwack Healthier Community have supported this work, but we are proudest of having created relationships with local businesses, including a number of large trades franchises and the Molson bottling plant. The businesses have allowed us to deliver information sessions about Naloxone to their employees.

We are also proud of our connection with the University of Fraser Valley. UFV has hosted several learning sessions in partnership with our team for trades students, as well as allowed us (virtual) floor-space in their classroom lectures to disseminate our knowledge product; Á:ylexw tel Th’á:lá .

Groups Served

  • In addition to First Nations people in generally, we have focused specifically on an underserved, high-risk group: First Nations women. In our effort to highlight the underserved, we have also targeted men in trades.

Overdose Response Work

  • Creating a call to action within the local Chilliwack Community
  • Shed light on hidden populations at risk of overdose

Interior Health

Lake Country Health Society

The community of people working to support substance users and their families in Lake Country began working together as a result of a housing issue that arose in the community in approximately 2019. The lack of affordable housing and a cluster of unhoused people in the community highlighted complex issues related to mental health and substance use. The situation led to a number of community members stepping forward to help address those issues. Lake Country Health is the primary organization with the community that works to address the needs of substance users and their families.

Prior to the pandemic, the organization hosted weekly gatherings, referred to as ‘coffee shops,’ to engage with substance users and provide them with support, supplies, and a safe gathering place to meet with one another. During those times staff facilitated discussion about how to address needs and support within the community. During the pandemic, support changed, and staff provided one on one support only, in person or via phone. The organization continues to reach out to bylaw officers, RCMP, local schools, with the CAT, and public events. Now that the pandemic restrictions have eased, our organization has begun to work towards providing a gathering place for community building and community harm reduction work again. The pandemic, and the transient nature of the population in the community makes this work challenging, but we will work with local peer leaders with a focus on re-establishing a community hub, and peer supports/gathering.

Groups Served

Working to engage youth, to help them in prevention and harm reduction. Work with a highly transient population between 2 urban centers of Kelowna and Vernon.

Overdose Response Work

  • Lake Country Health works to reduce the harm of substance use by providing supports to substance users and their family members, by offering harm reduction supplies and mental health supports.
  • Lake Country health engages youth to create open dialogue, prevent risky substance use, and reduce the harm of substance use
  • Lake Country health works to meet users and their families members needs and to engage them to provide supports
  • Working with local youth to develop youth focused Tiktok content on the topic of harm reduction. Some Tiktok clips had 1000+ views. Aim to help develop 10 youth ambassadors/leaders a year in Lake Country. The youth peer leaders will learn about harm reduction and share the information with peers.

Nelson Fentanyl Task Force

Nelson Fentanyl Task Force (NFTF; the name of the Nelson CAT), was founded in 2016 shortly after the public health crisis was declared. It was founded by three different parties: Interior Health, the AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society (ANKORS) – which is our local/regional harm reduction provider – and the Nelson City Police.

We’ve been really lucky to have ANKORS West here. They’ve been a long-time social services organization in the Kootenays, addressing the AIDS crisis early on. The workers are really well respected. There’s great rapport within the organization between peers and ANKORS staff. We have a really special community here in Nelson. We have a lot of collaboration going on among organizations here.

Right around the same time as the NFTF was being formed, we formed the Castlegar CAT – the Castlegar Fentanyl Opioid Working Group/CFOWG. Nelson and Castlegar are closely linked. The main reason the CFOWG formed was to address stigma against peers, to address the underutilization of health care services, and to promote low-barrier health care services for peers

All our West Kootenay CAT work is collaborative in nature. We make decisions together at our meetings through discussion and agreement among members. We greatly value our peer perspective, and we seek to centralize the lived experience of peers. Peers have had to navigate our healthcare systems and social support systems to access care. The CAT groups promote local regional development of a social justice lens and the impact of colonialization on Indigenous people. We are mindful of the need to work with respect as we communicate. We seek to make connections among workers that will help reduce risk of overdose death for our vulnerable populations.

Groups Served

Our stakeholders serve many different populations including youth, LGBTQ people, Indigenous people.

Overdose Response Work

Empowering peers to be part of the conversation.

  • Engaging stakeholders to work together with a common purpose.
  • Promotion of low-barrier harm reduction practices to our greater community and region.
  • Setting a regional standard in terms of anti-stigma practices and inclusion of peers in community.

Pathways Addictions Resource Centre

As the stand-alone community organization for Substance Use and Addiction in the South Okanagan Pathways has been the leader in the community when it comes to working with people who struggle with addiction. Having been the community for 47 years our staff and knowledge base are looked to for guidance and leadership especially when the opioid crisis hit our community. As we work from both a harm reduction lens and recovery lens, we are able to move people through the stages of their recovery with the extensive team we have to support them every step of the way. This includes individual counselling, group counselling, family counselling, grief and loss, anger management, basic life skills, education, getting back to work, learning new skills, housing, corrections, child protection and the list goes on. We are able to provide a full wrap around service to clients and their families.

Groups Served

  • Men in trades
  • Families of people using opioids
  • Youth using opioids
  • Anyone else who is struggling with substance use and addiction

Overdose Response Work

  • 120 ICCON clients with zero overdoses
  • Over 500 family members involved their loved ones’ recovery
  • 40 people with opioid use disorder have gone back into the workforce
  • Positive connects made with organizations to support people who are struggling with opioid use disorder so staff understand the process of recovery

Island Health

Port Alberni Harm Reduction Roundtable for Youth Services

The Harm Reduction Roundtable for Youth Services started as a legacy table to the Child and Youth Mental Health Substance Use Collaborative Local Action Team (CYMSUC LAT). The CYMHSUC LAT was a three-year funded initiative by Shared Care BC. A small amount of funding was provided to Youth Substance Use providers to convene a table that prioritized service to high-risk youth populations through a harm reduction lens. The following year, an OPEN grant was applied for, and we were successful. The grant has been a game changer for youth harm reduction and overdose prevention in our community. Points to include – Partners around the table including SD70, Indigenous, RCMP, MCFD etc. – Has offered an incredible opportunity to engage the frontline servers at an action table and has built powerful collaborative relationships. – Has established a solid Youth Advisory of Peers-Youth with Lived and Living Experience with SU

The Harm Reduction Roundtable for Youth Services consists of community front line youth workers including SD70, MCFD, RCMP, Family Guidance, City of Port Alberni, and NTC. Monthly meetings are organized by the Project Coordinator and supported by two co-chairs. All projects, events and trainings are planned with input from all the community partners around the table and by the work of the Youth Advisory

Groups Served

  • Peer Youth with Lived Experience
  • LGBTQ2+ youth
  • Indigenous youth
  • Youth transitioning to adult

Overdose Response Work

  • Collaborating with Port Alberni’s Youth Services to increase access to harm reduction supplies, services and education for youth in our community. Development of a community agreement on Harm Reduction for Youth. Professional development for the roundtable participants, and members of the supporting organizations.
  • Youth Training and Youth Knowledge Exchange; Developing and Delivery of Overdose Alertness for Youth, featuring Take Home Naloxone Training.
  • Putting youth peers with lived experience at the front of the work, by engaging a Youth Advisory on Substance Use. Providing meaningful opportunity for the Youth advisory to participate in, and inform the work of the response work. Above all, privileging the wisdom, experience and stories of youth on topics of substance use and overdose

South Island Community Overdose Response Network (SICORN)

SICORN was established in the midst of increasing drug toxicity related overdose deaths. From the beginning, SICORN has worked to honour lived and living experience of people who use drugs, experience overdoses, and lost loved ones to this crisis, operating from a place of harm reduction. With leadership of various coalition members, SICORN-led political advocacy activities including the ‘Say Yes to SCS (Supervised Consumption Sites)’ campaign, safe supply rally, advocacy to reduce bylaw enforcement of people camping in parts, and decriminalization of drug use. While SICORN was very active from its forming through 2020, consistent participation was much easier for people who had salaried roles in organizations than people without these roles, many of whom had personal lived or living experience. In addition, ongoing grief, loss, and preventable deaths contributed to personal and professional burnout for many SICORN members. SICORN had a considerable success and mobilization with its public facing activities to raise awareness and attention, as well as to engage a range of people.

AVI Health and Community Services plays the lead role in coordinating SICORN meetings and events, including administering the financial aspects of the work. Overall, decisions were made by consensus. In addition, some of the decisions were delegated to specific committees and coalition members. For example, Moms Stop the Harm took the lead on International Overdose Awareness Day events in 2020 and 2021.

Groups Served

  • Youth – engagement and opportunities for conversation
  • Peer network – Identified needs for harm reduction resources and necessities, capacity building
  • Our focus with this funding supporting the community conversation around stigma, trauma and resilience

Overdose Response Work

  • Increase collaboration among organizations responding to overdose and individuals with lived and living experience offering support and education on overdose prevention and response
  • Develop and implement community-led initiatives, including political advocacy directed at the City of Victoria and the province, to improve the lives of people who use criminalized substances
  • Inspire conversations to advance decriminalization of drug use and provision of a safe supply of currently illicit drugs

 

Northern Health

BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors (BCYADWS)

BCYADWS is a provincial network of peers working to create a safe space for people who use substances to engage with policy makers, and service providers to reduce harm in policies.

BCYADWS works collectively with all health regions and the First Nations Health Authority to provide essential real time feedback on policy making and how it plays out within each community across a broad network of peers. Through their work, BCYADWS have built social capital to provide space for peers who have previously been viewed with stigma, engaging with people with lived and living experience within their communities. Over the last two years, they have established other peer led drug user groups within their  respective communities. Along side advocacy work, BCYADWS’  members do outreach with agencies in their communities, allowing for real time engagement with peers through front line work.

BCYADWS has helped to expand the capacity of peer-led groups throughout B.C. As a peer led group themselves, BCYADWS understands the experiences of peers on the front line of the overdose crisis. In their own words:

“We understand each other’s struggles and emotional fallout from doing this work and how it can increase risks for overdose if we experience emotional dysregulation from being tokenized or exploited. We understand each other’s inability to be diplomatic at times when faced with such overwhelming odds for survival during this crisis. Support for each other is essential to preventing additional risks of overdose while we work to prevent overdoses in our respective communities with no option of stress leave or even medical support in some cases. We watch each other succumb to extreme stress while losing valuable team members to overdose or dysregulated substance use and support from others experiencing the same scenarios is vital to mental health so we can continue to be effective in our roles across the province.”

Groups Served

Those who use substances or have used substances across all demographics

Overdose Response Work

  • Supported 10 drug user groups province wide to become established in their communities through funding, weekly meeting support, feedback, and travel
  • Created a network of supports. Leading to emergency responses that facilitated peers in supporting check points for peers travelling to treatment from North to South (providing shelter & transport to peers) who would otherwise be displaced due to unsuccessful attempts in treatment or medical detox
  • Ten drug user groups established that collectively serve approximately 1-2,000 individuals across the province

Coalition of Substance Users of the North: Support (CSUNS)

The Quesnel Coalition received its first grant from OPEN in 2018. The Quesnel Coalition has remained a fairly small coalition, doing big work in Quesnel! The Coalition consists of PWLLE who have provided integral leadership to the work, representatives from the Northern Health Authority, Quesnel Shelter and Support Society and invested community members.

Major achievements of the Quesnel Coalition since 2018 include the ongoing work and achievements of the Clean Team; the growth and development of CSUN; Peer Outreach and Advocacy to provide overdose prevention and response services in Quesnel; hosting of “Building a Compassionate Approach: Substance Use, Harm Reduction and the Public Health Emergency” a two-day regional conference held in Quesnel in 2018; the hosting of annual educational and awareness events such as International Overdose Awareness Day; regular public education and anti-stigma work provided via social media and newspaper articles; and finally a video project on the peer based work in Quesnel that was supported through the OPEN grants over the years. The Quesnel Coalition has been integral in the advancement of inclusion of PWLLE at local tables informing health and overdose prevention and response services in the community of Quesnel.

The Coalition consists of PWLLE who have provided integral leadership to the work, representatives from the Northern Health Authority, Quesnel Shelter and Support Society and invested community members. PWLLE have been engaged and provided leadership to this work since its inception in 2018; service providers and other supportive community members are members of the coalition to manage grants and to assist and provide support to PWLLE in the work they have envisioned and see as priority.

Groups Served

  • People who use drugs
  • Indigenous people
  • People who are homeless or precariously housed
  • People experiencing poverty

Overdose Response Work

  • Supporting the Coalition of Substance Users of the North (CSUN) to build and expand on their services to support people who use drugs in the Northern Region
  • Supporting PWLLE in various employment opportunities, such as the Clean Team; building capacity and providing opportunities to be leaders in overdose prevention work in Quesnel

Vancouver Coastal

ILLICIT Projects

Illicit projects began as a community-led arts initiative to voice the impact of the forced closure of the drug resource center in Vancouvers Downtown Eastside.

With Illicit, we aim to illuminate our stories and amplify our voices as people who have made DURC what it is: a place of meaning, belonging, and hope. Our intent is to imaginatively explore harm reduction, drug policy, and the realities of life on the margins through art forms such as writing, movement, music, theatre, and visual art. Our goal is to create a compelling work of performance art that will affirm our community’s vision while viscerally and emotionally drawing the wider public into our world.

All of our coalition members are having lived experience in a multitude of high-risk living situations and experiences.  Such as residential school survivors, child abuse, survival sex work, drug dealing and chronic homelessness.

Bringing ideas to the table for the group to create a cohesive ,and engaging performance  where each person draws on their personal experience to creativity to develop a character through a collaborative process

Throughout the years our coalition members have overcome much of the trauma the endured thanks thank to the platform Illicit has provided them.

Illicit is a community-engaged arts-based research project with members, leaders, and staff of the PHS Community Services Society’s Drug User’s Resource Centre, or DURC. DURC is a cutting-edge, peer-run centre in Vancouver dedicated to the rights of people who use illicit drugs and alcohol. It is a vibrant hub of arts, cultural, and user-specific programming built by and for the people in this community.

Groups Served

Those with and without lived experiences of drug use

Overdose Response Work

  • Performances have raised awareness for audiences outside of the neighbourhood. To reduce stigma by educating non-drug users, education and knowledge building and building agency. All which help to reduce accidental overdose deaths within our community

Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council (MVAEC)

The Metro Vancouver Aboriginal Executive Council (MVAEC) was founded in 2008 to respond to the urban Aboriginal community’s desire for a more collaborative, strategic, and unified voice across Metro Vancouver. MVAEC was incorporated as a society in 2009 and currently includes 22 diverse Aboriginal non-profit organizations operating throughout Metro Vancouver. Alongside these organizations, MVAEC works to positively influence outcomes for the urban Aboriginal community through strategic planning, community engagement, and advocacy on issues of collective concern to its members. MVAEC will leverage these strong connections to a wide variety of community-based organizations to ensure that the community plan is truly representative of the needs and capacities of the Metro Vancouver community

Groups Served

Indigenous people, people living in the DTES, Indigenous people who are homeless.

Overdose Response Work

  • Supporting Indigenous lead initiatives in the DTES
  • Facilitating a forum for culture and ceremony
  • Involving Indigenous peers and Elders

Vancouver Community Coalition Against Prohibition and Overdose (VanCCAPO)

The Vancouver Community Coalition Against Prohibition and Overdose (VAN CCAPO) was a collaboration between the Coalition of Peers Dismantling the Drug War (CPDDW), the Western Aboriginal Harm Reduction Society (WAHRS), the Tenant Overdose Response Organizers

(TORO), and the DUDES Club. It was made up of justice seeking community members of Vancouver’s Downtown East Side (DTES) and consisted of the grassroots peer leaders of the present, and the future. Although the coalition is currently unfunded and therefore inactive, its constituent membership continues to resist and fight back against the drug war and colonization, and to work together to create a vibrant, safe, and beautiful community in Vancouver’s DTES by keeping each other safe, housed, and alive. The membership of our coalition continues fighting for a safe supply of all drugs, for safer spaces for marginalized people, for our rights, for ending the war on drugs, and for the end of 400 years of colonization. To this end, despite our current lack of funding, we continue to collaborate informally in order to put grassroots organizations front and centre in the overdose prevention movement and to focus on continued clear intergroup communication, including building a strong community response to the ongoing crisis of prohibition based on self-directed and autonomous community organizing and solidarity.

Van CCAPO made all its decisions at a drug user led, monthly steering committee, which occurred in person at a central location in the DTES. All decisions were made with one hundred percent consensus by all of the groups’ representatives present. Decisions or issues that were contentious were discussed in person until resolved.

Groups Served

  • CPDDW:
    People who use drugs.
  • DUDES Club:
    Indigenous men.
  • TORO:
    Single Room Occupancy (SRO) hotel tenants.
  • WAHRS:
    Indigenous people who use drugs..

Overdose Response Work

  • Direct outreach to, and advocacy alongside, people who use drugs, including education.
  • Storytelling and narrative production; this includes releasing resources for people who use drugs on how to survive the current genocide against them, and information that combats the current medical narrative that safe supply must be institutionalized.
  • Drug user capacity building, resource development, and interagency collaboration; this includes best practice policy development and ongoing expansion and moderation of a peer-to-peer education curriculum.
  • The production of research and information dissemination to the community as warranted and requested.

Websites:

Vancouver Aboriginal Community Policing Center (VACPC)

We began responding to the overdose crisis in 2018 with our partner agency the Aboriginal Front Door as the deaths mounted and kept climbing. We met and engaged with other agencies doing similar work in the DTES like Culture Saves Lives and WAHRS and then met more through the CAI network. We have learned more and more from every agency we worked with and are proud to be part of such a committed and devoted network of frontline heroes. The peer workers are the most dedicated and knowledgeable and compassionate and resilient people in the world. They survived the reality and now do what they can to help others survive.

Each agency makes their own decisions but we keep the lines of communication open and meet when needed to coordinate our plans and also to share resources to be most effective.

Lived/Living experience:

Most of our staff have lived experience. All of our peers have lived experience. We have scheduled meetings to discuss issues occasionally but mostly they are impromptu or hastily organized meetings to respond to urgent matters or crises that may arise. Occasionally we may be able to get together at a fun community event like Family Night at Strathcona or National Indigenous Peoples Day and share some good times.

Groups Served

  • Urban Indigenous in DTES Vancouver

Overdose Response Work

  • Frontline engagement with urban Indigenous community in DTES
  • Cultural approach to health of the whole person and community connections
  • Cultural approach to inter-generational trauma, the root cause of substance use
  • Re-connecting people to community and culture