BC/Yukon Association of Drug War Survivors (BCYADWS)

Formed in:  1998
Communities served:  

Those who use substances or have used substances across all demographics


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.

Overview of Overdose Response Work
• Aided establishment of 10 provincial drug user groups in their communities through funding, weekly meeting support, feedback, and travel expenses
• These 10 drug user groups collectively serve around 1,0000-2,000 individuals across the province
• Created a support network for peers travelling to treatment (who would otherwise be displaced due to unsuccessful attempts in treatment or medical detox) by providing shelter & transport to peers during emergency responses

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