FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Funding will come to an end this week for Fort St. John’s peer outreach team, which has spent the last 10 months offering harm reduction services and tackling the stigma of drug addiction in the city.
Since its launch in April, the team has responded to 34 emergency calls and 14 overdoses where naloxone was administered, all with positive outcomes.
The team received an email informing them grant funding would end on November 28th, and Peer leader Terrilyn Schultz says the news came as a surprise. The team is awaiting further information from Northern Health, and looking to continue the program on their own if they have to.
“We sent a couple people to detox, we assisted in overdoses, we handed out harm reduction, snacks, water,” Schultz said. “We were actually making friends with them, making them feel important, our more vulnerable population. Even now people wave us down and want to chat with us, and tell us about their day.”
Schultz said $300 a month was provided by the health authority for supplies, while roughly $1,000 a week was used to hire peers for the program.
More than 20 peers with lived experience were employed by the team, said Schultz, working in pairs of two to offer food, hygiene kits, first aid, naloxone kits, harm reduction supplies, info on detox and treatment, and warm clothing for those in need.
The group also worked to clean up the streets, picking up used needles and other drug paraphernalia for safe disposal, said Schultz.
“People would set their own alarms at the shelter and be at the meeting spot at 7 a.m. just to help others. It gave them meaning, it gave them something to look forward to, it made them feel important,” said Schultz. “It gave them cash and a lot of people weren’t doing the crime they were doing before in the past. It was really making a difference.”
Four peers will stay on until the end of the week, said Schultz.
Northern Health has been contacted for comment.