Selkirk College Helps Fentanyl Task Force Lead Way Through Conversation and Education
Experts agree the fentanyl crisis in British Columbia is an unprecedented multi-faceted societal catastrophe that’s not going away anytime soon. Those on the frontlines are also united in recognizing that solutions will only be possible through education and conversation.
As health care professionals, emergency responders, educators and community leaders across the West Kootenay continue to combat the devastating human toll the drug is taking on the region, Nelson’s Fentanyl Task Force is reaching out through education. On November 22, the education and prevention sub-committee of the task force is hosting Growing Hope: A Community Conversation on the Current Fentanyl Crisis at Nelson’s Hume Hotel.
“What will have the biggest effect on death is reducing stigma for people who are using drugs,” says Chole Sage, an educator at Nelson’s ANKORS who will be part of a seven-person panel of speakers at the event. “One of the goals of these panels is to be able to talk about all the issues that involve people who use drugs and people who are at risk of dying from fentanyl overdose. When we start lowering the stigma and people can talk about what they are going through, then we will have less deaths because people will be able to seek the help they need.”
Joining Sage on the panel will be nurse practitioner Zak Matieschyn, Interior Health mental health educator Karen Leman, Freedom Quest Youth Services Society representative Julia Webb, Nelson Street Outreach worker Jeremy Kelly, and Sean and Pat Dooley who will share their personal experience with addiction.
The Growing Hope event is one of several initiatives being undertaken by the task force that was formed last November by Nelson Police Department Chief Paul Burkart who helped pull together more than 40 individuals actively working on dealing with the issue. The public is invited to come hear experts who have knowledge and direct experience with opioid substance use. There will be an opportunity to ask questions in an effort to strengthen communities and protect people who are vulnerable.
“Much of the fentanyl crisis has to do with trauma, drug use, poverty and homelessness,” says Burkart, who has been with the local police force for 17 years. “We’re not going to solve those things in the next six months. What we need to do is respond to the problem right now and a vital part of that is harm reduction.”