UPDATE: A local peer outreach team leader says Northern Health lied in the statement below claiming peer services will continue in the city.

FORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Northern Health and Fort St. John’s peer outreach team are in discussions to continue services in the city.

The health authority says the community mobile harm reduction program and hiring peer support staff are not being halted, it is being restructured.

The peers were waiting to hear from NH after receiving notice that funding was being pulled on November 28th.

Peer leader Terrilyn Schultz said last week that the news came as a surprise.

There seemed to be a misunderstanding as the health authority says the team was notified about changes to the funding models in October. 

Northern Health has launched a restructuring of the funding and compensation model for the [team]. These changes will include ensuring adequate financial reporting and accounting for program funding, and peer compensation is in place,” said a statement from the health authority. 

Overdose prevention services are also expanding in the City, according to the health authority. The community can expect a mobile overdose prevention program, with a vehicle and staff, and ongoing work toward a fixed and permanent overdose prevention program location in the new year.

Since its launch in April, the outreach team has responded to 34 emergency calls and 14 overdoses where naloxone was administered.

With files from Tom Summer, Local Journalism Initiative, Alaska Highway News

The full statement from Northern Health can be viewed below:

Northern Health is committed to harm reduction and overdose prevention in Fort St. John, and working to improve existing services, and implement additional and expanded services. Peers play an important role in Overdose Prevention work, and Northern Health will work with peers to ensure this continues.

 To ensure the highest quality of services is provided to area residents, Northern Health has launched a restructuring of the funding and compensation model for the Fort St. John Peer Outreach Team. These changes will include ensuring adequate financial reporting and accounting for program funding and peer compensation are in place. Northern Health notified peers about changes to the structures and funding models more than a month ago (in mid-October).

 NH Leadership is in contact and discussion with the Peer Outreach Team leaders to continue peer outreach services in Fort St. John. The community mobile harm reduction program and hiring of peer support staff is not being halted, it is being restructured. In the interim, there remain many options available within the city of Fort St. John to receive harm reduction supplies (including Take Home Naloxone) and overdose prevention support, all of which were pre-existing services – through Northern Health programs and services, local non-profits, and community pharmacies.

 NH Mental Health & Substance Use programs look forward to expanded overdose prevention services being implemented in Fort St. John early in the new year. These include a mobile overdose prevention program (outreach vehicle and team), and ongoing work toward a fixed and permanent overdose prevention program location.