SUSTAIN (Substance User Society Teaching Advocacy Instead of Neglect) began in October-November of 2017, meeting eight times before the year was up. By January 23rd 2018, we were able to offer individuals a $5 stipend to attend. SUSTAIN Co-Founders and Peer Leaders, Daniel Snell and Aisha Magrath, attended the “Drug User Groups and Community Resilience” conference in Abbotsford from December 5th-6th 2017. The conference was a boost to SUSTAIN, the leaders brought back new ideas and made connections with new mentors. During this time, SUSTAIN Peer Leaders completed basic facilitation and leadership training. The Peer Leaders and coordinator focused on program planning, set up and running of meetings, defining goals and creating action plans, eliciting input from PWLE to create a group focus, and networking with other organizations and individuals to develop a support system.
Amanda Evans was hired as Support Worker – Overdose Prevention Coordinator. This position began with the Community Resource Centre (under PREP Society) the same week as the Community Forum: Fentanyl Crisis and Overdose Prevention, on May 11, 2017. Speakers for this forum included; Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer, Dr. Anna-Marie Maguire, Addiction Medicine Specialist, Vancouver Coastal Health’s Mental Health and Addictions Team, Emergency Medical Services, R.C.M.P, and members of Moms Stop the Harm. The event was moderated by Maggie Hathaway, Powell River City Counsellor.
Amanda joined the already existing (quarterly meetings) Harm Reduction Committee on May 31. She became a member of the newly found Overdose Awareness Panel in July 2017, an advocacy and education group. She regularly met with people with lived experience (PWLE) through the position with the Community Resource Centre to provide referrals and resources. Expansion of harm reduction sites and resources, a local and government funded treatment and detox facility, difficulty finding affordable housing options and the need to reduce stigma in the community were the prominent themes of those meetings. There were repeated requests from PWLE to expand Naloxone and harm reduction distribution sites with many PWLE calling for a standalone Overdose Prevention Site (not attached to other services but offering access to resources and referrals). Amanda opened a Naloxone Training and Distribution Site at the Community Resource Centre on December 7th, 2017.
In 2018, PREP received an increase in grant funds for the SUSTAIN project, under the Community Action Initiative. It focused on a collaborative coalition between key partners (see CAI grant 2018-19 for more information) with the aim to develop an empowered and well-trained peer network to lead, complement and support harm reduction and overdose response in the region. Jessica Leavens was hired as the Coordinator in August 2018 (8 hours / week). Daniel Snell, Aisha Magrath, and Adam Romagnoli were hired as Peer Support Workers (10 hours per week) with the aim that each PSW would take on specific projects as outlined in the grant, support the expansion of SUSTAIN, and provide peer support to people with lived / living experience. The bulk of August – December was spent in determining job descriptions, organizing and planning, discussion of policies and procedures, attending events (e.g. PREP AGM, BC Yukon Drug War Survivors Conference), and visioning the work of SUSTAIN. SUSTAIN hosted the Compassion, Inclusion, and Engagement (CIE) Project and they facilitated a one-day visioning process with 18 PWLLE to guide the work of SUSTAIN (see CIE Project 2018 for details). SUSTAIN and VCH collaborated to offer a Street Degree in Overdose Prevention Train-the-Trainer session to support ongoing classes in our community.
Due to circumstances, changes were made to the PSW model and January – March meant an increase in Coordinator hours with a focus on completing activities / projects related to the grant and consultation for 2019-20 CAI funding. Projects included: Street Degree in Overdose Prevention classes and Train-the-Trainer session, Grief Support Group for those who had experienced loss due to overdose (a collaboration with VCH and Powell River Hospice), an anti-stigma / advocacy zine (supported by the Powell River Library and guided by journalist/writer Erin Innes), weekly meetings, and more (see Coordinator Report 2018-19 for more information).
April we rested. From May – June, SUSTAIN discussed internal decision-making processes, applied and received a Dialogue Grant from CISUR (see Dialogue Grant 2019 for more info), and met most weeks. It had been determined that SUSTAIN would benefit from a Coordinator who would be consistently available for 16 hours / week; in July 2019, Ashley Vanzweitering was hired as the new Coordinator. The new CAI Grant is from April 1, 2019 – March 31, 2019 (see CAI grant 2019-20 for details).
The coordinator organizes, facilitates and supports the work carried out by peers.