People and communities throughout B.C. will have the on-the-ground support they need to respond to the overdose crisis and help save lives, with the addition of two new community action teams (CATs) and additional support for existing teams.
The Government of B.C. is investing $2.5 million to support new and existing CATs, bringing the total number of teams in B.C. to 36. These teams provide support and services to people who use drugs and reduce the risk of illicit drug toxicity deaths in communities hit hardest by the overdose crisis.
"By investing in CATs, we are supporting overdose prevention and partnering with people with lived and living experience at the local level,” said Sheila Malcolmson, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I’m grateful for the knowledge and experience of CAT team members, whose dedication is making a difference every day by saving lives.”
New teams will be established in the Central Coast Regional District and in Cranbrook. In addition, two teams in the Central Okanagan will be joined to better co-ordinate local responses. Through the Community Action Initiative, existing teams will also receive funds to continue their vital work in the communities they serve.
“More than ever, people who use substances need services in their community, along with systems supports,” said Melinda Markey, executive director, Community Action Initiative. “This investment recognizes that local involvement, especially when led by people with lived experience, helps people access the care and support they need, and builds a strong, supportive community.”
CATs are part of B.C.’s response to the illicit drug toxicity crisis. Teams help save lives and reduce drug harms by distributing naloxone, supporting overdose prevention services, providing peer supports and reducing stigma. Teams also play a vital role in service navigation, support and advocacy.
“I have lived a life that included active addiction and have experienced overdose myself. I have also worked on trying to help others who were also trapped in the cycle of addiction,” said Carl Howard, a peer from the Burnaby Community Action Team. “Being part of a CAT (as a peer) has really been an important tool to address the overdose crisis. I am very thankful that this activity has been, and is going to continue to be funded. This gives us a chance to save lives within the Burnaby community.”
Teams include community partners, such as First Nations communities, municipalities, front-line community agencies and people and families with lived experience. By providing on-the-ground responses tailored to local community needs, teams act to address the drug poisoning crisis on the local level.
“We are extremely grateful to the Province for this critical funding for our community,” said Nancy Burchell, project co-ordinator, Fort St. John Community Action Team. “CATs play an integral role in responding to the overdose crisis. Funding at the local level is essential to helping save lives and establishing initiatives with the regional health authority, First Nation partners, outreach agencies and people with lived and living experience.”
Equitable access to effective substance-use care is a key component of A Pathway to Hope, B.C.’s roadmap to creating a system of mental health and addictions care that works for everyone.
Community Action Initiative: https://caibc.ca/
A Pathway to Hope, visit: https://news.gov.bc.ca/files/BCMentalHealthRoadmap_2019.pdf
A backgrounder follows.