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Outreach team tackles drug addiction, stigma in Fort St. John

A Northern Health funded peer outreach team is hitting the streets of Fort St John tackling the stigma of drug addiction.
Terilynn Schultz and Neil Bramsleven
Outreach peers Terilynn Schultz and Neil Bramsleven hit the streets of Fort St. John Wednesday night to offer supplies and treatment info for those in need. Tom Summer photo

A Northern Health funded peer outreach team is hitting the streets of Fort St John tackling the stigma of drug addiction. 

Terilynn Schultz and Neil Bramsleven were out Wednesday night, touring the neighbourhood to offer food, hygiene kits, first aid, naloxone kits, harm reduction supplies, info on detox and treatment centres, and warm clothing for those in need. The group also cleans up garbage and offers safe cleanup of needles.

“We’re employing peers with lived and living experience, helping to try and break the stigma of drug addiction,” said Bramsleven. “It’s not just here. We’ve had company trucks pull over. It’s not just the people you think of that suffer from addiction, its working people as well.”

There were a record 29 fatal overdoses in northeast B.C. in 2020 — 21 in Peace River North, 5 in Peace River South, and 3 in Fort Nelson. There have been eight deaths in the northeast in the first two months of 2021.

Schultz says the peer outreach team is able to meet a gap in the needs of the city.

“It’s going really well so far. People really like it because we’re doing the after hours. Between 9 to 5 they have the women’s resource centre and the medical clinic, but after that they have nothing going,” she said.

A mobile treatment centre is expected to launch in the next couple months, and a van is currently being prepped and outfitted in Vancouver, said the pair.

“We’re trying to lower our overdose rate as well, because it’s so high right now,” said Schultz. “In the meantime, Northern Health is supplying us with a van, a mobile unit we’ll be driving around and hopefully preventing more overdoses.”

She added that a permanent overdose prevention site has been approved to open next year.

The group operates from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.