Left to right: Jenna Swanson, student nurse working with ANKORS; Marci Loukianoff from outreach with addictions at the Castlegar Health Centre; and Alex Sherstobitoff, Rise Up community engagement project coordinator at ANKORS. (Chelsea Novak/Castlegar News)

Coalition planning Castlegar conference to tackle opioid crisis

A coalition of health and service providers from Castlegar is holding a free one-day conference.

A coalition of community health and social service providers from Castlegar and the surrounding area is holding a free one-day conference to address the fentanyl and opioid crisis.

The conference, titled “The Fentanyl & Opioid Crisis in our Community: Working Together to Make Change,” will take place on Thursday, April 12 from 11:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. at the Castlegar & District Community Complex.

The conference includes an opening from the Circle of Indigenous Nations (COINS), break-out sessions, a dinner, two keynote speakers and a panel presentation.

“The event is about fentanyl and the opioid crisis and I guess at the end of it we want to start a working group to see how we can move forward and mitigating the harms of fentanyl and opioids in our community,” said Alex Sherstobitoff, Rise Up community engagement project coordinator at ANKORS in Nelson.

ANKORS is providing funding for the conference, along with Community Action Initiative and the City of Castlegar.

And Sherstobitoff is just one of the people involved in planning the event. Other organizers include Deb McIntosh, city councillor and coordinator for the Castlegar Community Harvest Food Bank and Drop In Center; Zak Matieschyn, family nurse practitioner at the Castlegar and District Community Health Centre; Lindsay Lazzarotto, nurse practitioner student; Tammy McLean, nursing practitioner and one of the panelists; Jenna Swanson, student nurse working with ANKORS; Marci Loukianoff from outreach support worker at the Castlegar Health Centre; Mandy Root, regional prevention coordinator for Freedom Quest Youth Services Society; Amanda Erickson from Child and Youth Mental Health in Castlegar; and Mike Laren, “voice for the people.”

McIntosh says the Castlegar conference is a one-off from a conference that took place in Nelson in November.

“It’s just informing the people of Castlegar that there are services here and there are people willing to help and that it takes community engagement, it takes political will and most of all it takes people coming together to help those that are in the shadows,” she said.

McIntosh said that everyone is encouraged to attend.

“Anyone that goes to this is going to glean something out of it that’s going to help them move forward,” she said.

Those who are interested can register by visiting eventbrite.ca/e/the-fentanyl-opioid-crisis-in-our-community-working-together-to-make-change-registration-43171447963.

For those who are working and will be unable to attend the day-time sessions, Sherstobitoff said they are encouraged to attend the 5 p.m. keynote and the panel that follows (see schedule below).

“And that’s where community folks that just want to have a better understanding of what they can do can ask questions and get some answers, as well as listening to a couple of personal stories from people who have lived it one way or another,” said McIntosh.

Those who attend will also have the chance to sign up for naloxone training.

“We’re going to have a sign-up sheet there, available for any people who want to be trained in naloxone administration and it will be dates to follow,” said Root from Freedom Quest.

The organizers emphasized that one the goals of the conference is to combat the stigma around addictions and to help people understand that it’s not just the marginalized that face addictions.

“We do typically tend to think of people who have issues with opioids as being the homeless, people with mental health [issues] and the marginalized, and it’s so much more than just that, and I think that’s what I will be speaking about,” said McLean.

Matieschyn, who will give the afternoon keynote, said he plans to address the epidemiological perspective of the opioid crisis in B.C. Epidemiology is the scientific study of the causes, distribution and control of diseases.

“You know, showing a bare minimum of boring graphs and maps on where things have headed to now. I’ll talk about a bit of the physiology and pathology of addiction as we understand it, as an actual brain disease,” he said. “I’ll probably loop in a little bit about how we’re treating opioid use disorder, because I think that’ll be useful for, particularly, the public.”


11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. — Registration

12:30 to 1 p.m. — Opening: Circle of Indigenous Nations

1 to 2 p.m. — Keynote: Zak Matieschyn, “A brief overview: epidemiology of the opioid crisis, pathology of addiction and protective/contributory factors”

2 to 2:15 p.m. — Break

2:15 to 3:45 p.m. — Break Out Session: 1. COINS — Kris Taks and Elder — “Talking”; 2. Ann Livingston and Dr. Alexis Crabtree, “Stigma Discrimination and Drug Use”; 3. Sandy McLean, “Emotional Trauma in Care Providers: Recognition, Prevention Recovery.”

3:45 to 4:45 p.m. — Dinner (for guest registrants)

4:45 to 5 p.m. — Reconfiguration

5 to 6 p.m. — Keynote: Leslie McBain, “Anyone’s Child”

6 to 6:15 p.m. — Break

6:15 to 7:45 p.m. — Panel presentation: “How do we move forward in the midst of opioids?”

7:45 to 8 p.m. — End of day closing

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Left to right: Mandy Root, regional prevention coordinator for Freedom Quest Youth Services Society; Deb McIntosh, city councillor and coordinator for the Castlegar Community Harvest Food Bank and Drop In Center; and Mike Laren, “voice for the people.” (Chelsea Novak/Castlegar News)

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