You may have seen them around town during the summer months, dressed in blue, carrying packs and water and working morning, noon and night.
But who were they and what were they doing?
The Peer Ambassadors Network is a new, proactive, preventative and innovative approach to the opioid overdose crisis in Kamloops and its pilot project wrapped up at the end of August.
This energetic team of 14 was made up of people who have lived experiences of addiction, homelessness, poverty and mental-health challenges. They walked the streets of Kamloops six days per week, 12 hours per day, seeking out people who were at risk of overdosing and dealing with other related addiction challenges.
The ambassadors completed weeks of training in many areas, including peer support, first-aid, conflict resolution, bylaws orientation and mental-health first-aid. For all of them, this was their first paid work experience in quite some time.
The blue team worked in pairs across the North Shore. They called for medical help when needed, provided lived experience social contact and support for street-entrenched community members and picked up discarded needles and garbage from riverfronts, parks, lanes and alleys.
They offered snacks, water and harm -eduction supplies and made referrals to other service providers.
The goal of the Peer Ambassadors Network is to bring compassion, support and education about addiction to our community. And, because they all have lived experience, they were able to connect on a deeper level with street-entrenched members of our society.
An extension of the program will be based on its effectiveness, which is being evaluated.
The project is operated by the Lived Experience Community Life and Peer Skills Program, a non-profit society, and assisted by many helping hands in the community, including Alex McGilvery, the Community Action Team, Amy and Christa at the Canadian Mental Health Association, Reanna, Karly and Corey at the ASK Wellness Centre, NSBIA executive director Jeremy Heighton, KCBIA executive director Carl DeSantis, the Customer Care and Patrol team, Tammy Blundell, Tara Mochizuki at Interior Health, Nicole, Chloe and team at Interior Community Services and Erik Nelson and theRCMP Community Services on the North Shore.