One of the events that was part of the Community Opioid Dialogue was Seeds of Dialogue, Tree of Understanding at LUNA Nocturnal Art & Wonder. (Photo via Facebook)

Revelstoke Community Opioid Dialogue culmination of years of awareness work

Stage is set for the next steps in making Revelstoke safe, says city’s director of social development

Several events dedicated to shifting the stigma around substance use have set the stage for continued growth, says Jill Zacharias, the City of Revelstoke’s Development Coordinator.

The events, which took place last fall, included a participatory art installation at LUNA Nocturnal Art & Wonder, as well as three other community events planned by Simon Hunt and Stacie Byrne.

“With this whole project, what we have been trying to do is build on the community dialogue that we have started through the Mental Health and Substance Use Local Action Team, (Byrne’s) articles in the paper, trying to build on the strength of that community conversation and deepen it in order to build the trust that we need to be able to listen and learn how we can make Revelstoke a better place, and safer,” said Zacharias.

READ MORE: Part One: The opioid crisis and the B.C. Interior

With funding from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research at the University of Victoria, Byrne hosted a community dinner and a panel mixer. Hunt started the dialogue at LUNA and hosted the final event, a harm reduction table at Traverse on Nov. 28.

“Throughout all of this, the whole point of having a community dialogue is to understand that there’s no one person who holds all the power and all the knowledge and is the expert,” Byrne said. “Every single person involved in this, from the physician to the mental health clinician to the drug and alcohol worker, to the community member, to the mom, to the child, to the teacher, they’re all people who hold some of the knowledge and it is important that some of this knowledge is shared between all of these people.”

READ MORE: Opioid crisis a complex issue, says Penticton RCMP

The events

At LUNA on Sept. 28, attendees had the opportunity to contribute their “seeds of dialogue” and hang them on the “tree of understanding”.

Joe Reiner of the AIDS Network Kootenay Outreach and Support Society, ANKORS, was at the event with videos as well as information to spur conversation.

The Let’s Taco-bout it dinner saw around 130 attendees, Byrne said.

The tables were set up community style, with conversation cards to spark conversation.

“It was more about talking about social inclusion, talking about building community, talking about sharing a meal with a stranger,” Byrne said.

A survey set up on the wall, indicated that everyone at the dinner had both met someone new and learned something new about someone. Around 30 per cent of people learned something about substance use.

And the next event, the panel mixer, filled that gap.

“There needed to be relationship building that went on,” Byrne said, before they dove into the education and information part of the conversation.

READ MORE: Revy Let’s Talk: Cocaine, harm reduction and stigma. Oh my!

The panel mixer was a cross between a panel discussion and a social mixer. Attendees voted on which questions they wanted the experts, which included people with lived experience, as well as medical professionals, to answer. The discussion was followed by socializing and the opportunity to ask questions face to face.

Hunt brought Reiner back to Revelstoke during Welcome Week for two events. The first was at Revelstoke Secondary School, where Reiner did a presentation to more than 40 students about harm reduction, otherwise known as how to party safe.

“You don’t ever condone, but, when people are educated and informed they can make better decisions,” Hunt said.

Reiner, as well as a public health nurse and a community paramedic, set up a booth at Cymatic Grounds Welcome Week event at Traverse.

Hunt said they handed out about a dozen Naloxone kits, which can be used to save a person’s life if they are overdosing on opioids, as well as doing then-and-there training on how to use the kits.

“Where we really saw a lot of interest were people who work in the industry-work in bars, they were really interested in understanding Naloxone,” Hunt said.

Overall, Zacharias, who secured the funding for the project, is happy with the results.

“The project has exceeded my expectations,” she said.

READ MORE: Overdoses overwhelming in B.C. Interior

A long time in the works

Though this series of events was made possible by the funding from the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research, bringing the community together to address stigma and educate about substance use has been in the works for several years, with several organizations, including the CYMHSU Local Action Team, involved.

Zacharias completed a Community Substance Use Strategy in partnership with Interior Health back in 2010, but the landscape has changed with the fentanyl crisis as well as the introduction of vaping.

“For a long time there was a feeling of safety in our community,” Zacharias said. There were rumours that the drug dealers weren’t even allowing fentanyl into the community. There was almost this false sense of security that it’s not happening here, it couldn’t happen here, it’s never going to hit our community, which of course is false.”

In the first half of 2018 there were six opioid related deaths in Revelstoke, Zacharias said and because of professional protocols and confidentiality, the conversation around the incidents was limited.

“It was super traumatizing I think, for us as a community as a whole, to have something like this happen and to not really have any official discussion about it,” Zacharias said.

READ MORE: Revy Let’s Talk: Yes, I carry a Naloxone kit. Don’t you?

In early 2019, Interior Health flagged Revelstoke as high risk for opioid deaths because of the six the year prior, Zacharias said. And so the CYMHSU Local Action Team, of which Zacharias is a co-chair, brought together key stakeholders to get the conversation going.

But, what was always missing, was someone with lived experience: either a person who uses a substance, a person who is in recovery or a person who lost someone due to substance use.

“People fear social repercussions,” she said. “The stigma is huge. People fear losing their jobs, and it is a well-founded fear.”

However, as Byrne said, “no one person who holds all the power and all the knowledge and is the expert.”

Zacharias agreed, “the people who are closest to the issue are the best place to come up with solutions”.

Zacharias has applied for funding to continue the conversation and, if successful, she hopes to updated the Community Substance Use Strategy.


 

@JDoll_Revy
jocelyn.doll@revelstokereview.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Highway 1 closed near Golden

DriveBC estimates the road to reopen at 1 p.m.

Rain for Revelstoke

Temperature hovering around zero for today

Revelstoke City Councillor Steven Cross resigns

Cross said he cannot support council giving themselves a raise

Almost 20,000 parking tickets issued by Interior Health at hospitals in 2019

In 2018, pay parking in Interior Health hospitals totalled $5.3 million of their $2.2-billion budget

Four things ‘not’ to do if you run into Harry and Meghan in B.C.

Like many in British Columbia, you may be worried about running into… Continue reading

Behind the scenes: The ‘unsung heroes’ of the South Okanagan Events Centre

Large numbers of local workers benefit from the big productions that come to Penticton each year.

Harry and Meghan should cover their own security costs: NDP heritage critic

The prince, Meghan Markle and their eight-month-old son Archie are reportedly staying at a mansion near Victoria

Summerland’s proposed budget requires $16,382,355

2020 budget is nearly half a million higher than the 2019 municipal budget of $15,905,410

UBC Okanagan art students to improve the environment one project at a time

The Ecosine Art Group uses non-purchased, recyclable mediums for 50 per cent of their art

Disability proves no barrier for 12-year-old Kelowna sit skier

Samuel is a 12-year-old double leg amputee who independently sit-skis

West Kelowna man charged with attempted murder of 79-year-old mother back in court

Kevin Lee Barrett was charged in April 2019 after allegedly beating his mother, leaving her stranded

Theo the 800-pound pig trimmed down and still looking for love on Vancouver Island

“He’s doing really well, lost quite a few pounds and can run now.”

Hudson’s Bay spotlights old Vernon store

Old downtown department store remembered fondly

Horgan unveils B.C. cabinet shuffle changes

Premier John Horgan has made three major changes to his cabinet

Most Read