With in-depth discussions, the Community Opioid Action Team (COAT) hosted the last of their World Cafe series.
They’ve been hosting the forums of discussion since October, reaching a wide range of community members, talking about opioid awareness and harm reduction.
“I’ve learned there’s actually a lot of really passionate people in Dawson Creek who want to be involved. I learnt that there is a lot of room for change. Like Dawson Creek is a small community, but we have the resources to initiate change, all we need is the people to buy in,” says Stephanie Lowe, project coordinator for COAT.
“Dawson Creek is actually a really great community, we’re a rural, remote community, but there’s also a lot of passion and compassion that is here that doesn’t get acknowledged.”
COAT — which is an offshoot of the harm reduction team in Dawson Creek — started the world cafes after garnering community interest at last year’s “People are dying in Dawson Creek” event and had secured a grant.
“We had a group of concerned individuals, they were community members, service providers, and peers, we thought, ‘Well, what are we going to do? This is such a huge project, this is such a huge thing, where do you start?’ So we chatted about how we would get this information, ‘Do we knock on doors? Do we cold call? What do we do?’ And then that’s where the World Cafe idea came up,” Lowe shares.
The first session in October was directly with peers, those with lived experience of addiction, with over 25 in attendance. Then they were off to Chetwynd for the second one, and the third in Tumbler Ridge saw a full house.
The final two sessions — one for service providers during the day, and one for the community in the evening.
Now the plan is to take the data from the five world cafes and put in a plan of action.
One of the big lessons from the session with peers is the need for activities.
“We need a peer support group that’s run by peers, that’s facilitated by peers,” says Lowe. “Different kinds of activities, it could be like swimming passes, it could be art and music lessons, it’s just something to fill time, because when you’re trying to come out of addiction, you need to replace that time with something else.”
That lines up with upcoming activities on COAT’s radar. An art therapy group beginning this month, where some of the art will displayed in Photovoice, another exciting project that will be on exhibit at the Art Gallery in August.
“It’s a destigmatizing project to actually show people this is what life is like for a community member in Dawson Creek So we’re partnering with the Art Gallery, who is graciously providing us the space for the last two weeks of August to host this show, so we’ll have a photographer actually show people how to use cameras, we’ll supply the cameras, there’s gonna be lessons, people are able to sell their artwork if they want,” says Lowe.
And for the next while — as long as it takes — COAT will be reflecting on the lessons from the World Cafes and putting together their report.
“One thing that was really apparent is that peers need to be involved in the policy change, because what’s happening is that there’s people who without that lived experience are the ones who creating policy, and peers are very capable of saying this what we need, because this has been our experience. That’s the type of policy change that we want,” says Lowe.
COAT also offers naloxone training and fentanyl test strips to the community. And they’re looking for help.
You can contact them on Facebook at “@communityopioidactionteam,” or by email at email@example.com.