You may have seen the ads sponsored by the Trail Community Action Team (CAT), as part of our Respect and Connect: A Better Community for Us All series.
The ads, speaker series and community education aim to reduce stigma against people who use drugs.
Because stigma is a major barrier to people seeking out help when they need it.
What people may not know about is the other work the Trail CAT and its partners do to help create a better community for us ALL.
People who live without homes and/or have a drug dependency suffer greatly due to their circumstances in life. At the same time, residents and businesses in Trail, along with most communities in BC, have seen disturbing changes to their town — the town many worked hard to build and call home.
Our partnership works to improve the living conditions of individuals in our area, which in turn, increases social stability and safety for us all.
So what else do the Trail CAT and its partners do?
Operate an Overdose Prevention Site (OPS) — ANKORS operates a part-time OPS (two days/month), where trained staff test drugs, oversee their consumption, intervene in case of overdose/poisoning, and dispense harm reduction supplies.
An expanded OPS can also offer counselling and substance use treatment referrals and provide some health services. OPSs do not result in increased drug use in the area and no deaths have ever been reported at drug overdose prevention sites in Canada.
We are working to expand the OPS operations because not only do they help people who use drugs, but the entire community benefits.
Research on Insite, Canada’s first OPS in Vancouver, showed:
- Almost one-quarter (23 per cent) of participants had ceased injecting substances after 2 years.
- Over half (57 per cent) had entered addiction treatment programs.
- Injecting in public places was reduced by half.
- There was a 60 per cent drop in discarded needles and other injection related litter.
- There were fewer calls on emergency medical and police services, allowing them more time to respond to other emergencies.
- The spread of infectious diseases, such as HIV and HEP C, was reduced.
- Crime statistics showed a 25 per cent decline in vehicle break-ins and theft, and no increases in drug trafficking, assaults/robbery or other crimes commonly linked to substance use.
Support the community: Career Development Services, which operates La Nina shelter, supports the community with two ‘Homeless Reconnect’ workers seven days a week, helping people who are experiencing homelessness access health and community services. They also respond to issues identified by businesses and community members, providing information and clean-up services when needed.
Support business: Twenty businesses in the downtown area of Trail are receiving training by Selkirk College nursing students on the use of naloxone, the temporary antidote to fentanyl. The students also provide resources and education on issues related to drug use.
Advocate for supportive housing: The City of Trail is working with BC Housing and community partners to develop a supportive housing facility in Trail for people dealing with a variety of disabilities/disorders, including addiction. The Trail CAT supports this effort by gathering public support for the initiative and helping to shape the services to be made available there. A safe place for people to gather, safely consume their substances and have other services available to them would go a long way to de-escalating the stress and aggression on our streets.
Advocate for decriminalization of personal drug use: In line with the recent report to BC’s Chief Coroner on deaths from illicit drug toxicity and the BC government’s request for an exemption under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, the Trail CAT advocates for decriminalization of substance use so that people using illicit drugs may access support and services without the stigma of drug use.
Countries including Portugal, Czechia, the Netherlands and Switzerland have decriminalized individual use of drugs.
In Portugal, after decriminalization:
- Overdose deaths dropped by over 80 per cent.
- New diagnoses of HIV and AIDS among drug users dropped from 52 per cent to six per cent.
- Incarceration rates for drug offences dropped by over 40 per cent.
- Per capita social cost of drug misuse decreased by 18 per cent.
- Drug use did not rise.
Drug dependency is a complex issue that is often based in trauma and/or mental illness.
The ‘drug war’ affects the entire community and must find its solutions in the broader community, including wrap-around physical and mental health services, humane drug policies and public support. Our current system serves no one and must be reformed.
The Trail CAT brings together a variety of people and groups working towards that change — to make a better community for us all.
If you are interested in helping with this effort, please contact us at TrailBCCAT@gmail.com.