South Island Community Overdose Response Network (SICORN)

Communities served:  

SICORN engages with bereaved family members, salaried staff members in organizations that address substance use and/or offer harm reduction, and people with lived and living experience.


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.

Overview of 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

Lessons Learned
Quote: “From our experience at SICORN, we encourage future networks in our community and others to build relationships with Indigenous people and other communities directly experiencing overdose from the outset of the work, and build meeting cultures and decision making processes that reflect the timelines, access needs, and strengths of these communities. While we had some successes in engaging people with lived and living experience, SICORN struggled to facilitate leadership of this group. Examples may include involving Indigenous leaders in the planning of meetings and workplans, public facing events, as well as meetings, and providing supports to people who bear the impacts of this crisis regularly. This can be built into project timelines and budgets from the beginning.”

Related Communities

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