Money the City of Kamloops will be getting from the provincial government’s new community overdose crisis innovation fund will go toward real initiatives and projects to address the opioid crisis in Kamloops.
Natalie Serl, the city’s acting community and social development supervisor, said some of the the $100,000 will be used to support the planned street newspaper, a social enterprise involving the lived-experience committee of the Elizabeth Fry Society.
“That’s a wonderful tool,” Serl said, noting it will not only provide work for people who live in poverty and are often unemployed, but will be a communication method to the broader community.
Those behind the newspaper are hoping to have the first edition out by the end of summer.
Other potential partners in the plans, which have a community-involvement mandate, include finding other ways to clean up discarded needles, Serl said. One such project in the city, in which residents Dennis Giesbrecht and Caroline King are collecting needles and paying those who provide them five cents per used syringe, doesn’t fit under the mandate the city is following.
However, Serl said, the pair has been invited to a meeting of the community action team to talk about ways the issue could be better dealt with.
Serl said there will also be a partnership with Tk’emlups te Secwepemc that should see its expertise in culturally appropriate wellness programs shared with other agencies in the city as they address the issues of harm reduction and addiction.
There is a place for other organizations with programming to be supported, Serl said, citing the Phoenix Centre and Moms Against the Harm as two of several possibilities.
ASK Wellness Centre will lead a project looking at injectable opioid agonist treatment, which could be used to address opioid addictions. The BC Centre on Substance Abuse, in a report to the Ministry of Health, said the treatment could benefit people who have what it calls opioid-use disorder and who have not benefited from other treatments.
The community action team will overseeing the use of the $100,000 in funding, with the city taking the lead in running the meetings and handling the finances and financial reporting. Serl said the community action team will “look at what others are doing and how the community can participate.”
The province announced earlier this week Kamloops is one of 20 communities to get funding. Victoria said the money is keyed to the existence of community action team that are working together to deal with the opioid crisis.
Through the end of May, there were 18 overdose deaths recorded in Kamloops. In all of 2017, the city recorded 39 such deaths. In 2016, 44 people died of an overdose in Kamloops, which is the most ever recorded in the city.
Through the end of May, there were 620 overdose deaths in B.C., compared to 694 after the first five months of 2017. Last year, there were 1,422 overdose deaths in the province, In 2016, there were 993 such deaths.
WHAT IS THE COMMUNITY ACTION TEAM?
The team was formed in July 2016 to address social and safety issues in Kamloops, specifically temporary overnight shelters, panhandling, nuisance behaviour and drugs.
Its goals include building awareness of understanding of social issues, working to solve areas of concern and developing resources and policies to address gaps.
It has a large number of members, including various city departments, the RCMP, ASK Wellness, United Way, Tk’emlups te Secwepemc, Interior Health and the Canadian Mental Health Association.