Jodi Higgs (right) holds a vial of naloxone and Christine Christensen holds a kit in the parking lot of the Pacific Community Resources Society in Chilliwack on Thursday, May 20, 2021. The society is offering a number of upcoming events, workshops and videos to help educate friends and family members who have loved ones that are drug users. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Jodi Higgs (right) holds a vial of naloxone and Christine Christensen holds a kit in the parking lot of the Pacific Community Resources Society in Chilliwack on Thursday, May 20, 2021. The society is offering a number of upcoming events, workshops and videos to help educate friends and family members who have loved ones that are drug users. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Educating family, friends key to helping ‘hidden’ population of substance users

Naloxone training one of many ways to help folks closest to unseen population of opioid users

A series of free naloxone training workshops geared specifically towards family members and friends of people struggling with substance use will be starting up next month in one B.C. city.

It’s just one of the many ways Pacific Community Resources Society (PCRS) in Chilliwack is educating those closest to the people who are using.

“We’re in the midst of an overdose crisis,” said Jodi Higgs, manager of Chilliwack Health and Housing Centre, which is part of PCRS. “When we think about the overdose crisis and overdose deaths, we think about the people living on the street. Although those folks are also overdosing, the disproportionate number of people who are dying in the Eastern Fraser Valley, 72 per cent of them are in their own homes.”

The majority of those 72 per cent are family men aged 29 to 49 who are married with kids, and adult children who still live with their parents (or have returned home to live with their parents). Most work in the construction trades industries and they are not the type of people who would walk into the Chilliwack Health and Housing Centre to pick up harm reduction supplies.

“There’s a lot of shame and stigma around it.”

RELATED: B.C. overdose deaths still rising 5 years after public health emergency declared

It was last year when the pandemic hit that it became apparent PCRS needed to shift their focus to support the friends and family members of the users and provide them with the tools, skills, confidence and language needed to help their loved ones.

“It really hit us hard that in order to reach the hidden population, we have to reach the friends and family of these folks,” Higgs said. “They are the ones who are closest, the ones who know or may suspect but are afraid to broach those topics, and they are the ones that can really make a difference in the stigma and the shame.”

On June 1, the first of several free naloxone training workshops will take place in the parking lot of Chilliwack Health and Housing Centre. They run through the month of June every Tuesday (twice a day) and then every second Tuesday for the month of July (also twice a day).

Christine Christensen (left) and Jodi Higgs with Pacific Community Resources Society in Chilliwack are offering a number of upcoming events, workshops and videos to help educate friends and family members who have loved ones that are drug users. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Christine Christensen (left) and Jodi Higgs with Pacific Community Resources Society in Chilliwack are offering a number of upcoming events, workshops and videos to help educate friends and family members who have loved ones that are drug users. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Thanks to thousands of dollars in grants, PCRS in Chilliwack has been able to do a lot more to help the friends and family members.

In addition to the naloxone training, they have put together three videos that will be released mid-June. One talks about statistics, another is a “lived experience” where a local man who’s in recovery tells his story, and the third focuses on Chilliwack paramedics who talk specifically about attending overdose calls to homes.

They have also hired a part-time counsellor who specializes in helping family and friends, and she is working on putting together resource guides for them. And recently, the local PCRS centre has introduced in-person group sessions in addition to their online ones.

Higgs adds that people need to move away from the idea that abstinence is the goal.

The goal is to “reduce the harm, reduce the death, increase the connection and relationship” and create a safe and shame-free place at home, she said.

“That has to be the biggest shift for friends and family. The connection is what’s going to save these folks,” Higgs said. “With the right support these folks can establish some sense of boundaries and know that they are doing as much as they can.”

To sign up for one of the parking lot naloxone training workshops, call 604-798-1416 to register. Training is being offered twice a day every Tuesday in June and every other Tuesday in July from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. and 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. at 45921 Hocking Ave. Free naloxone kits will also be handed out.

RELATED: B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

Jodi Higgs (right) holds a vial of naloxone and Christine Christensen holds a kit in the parking lot of the Pacific Community Resources Society in Chilliwack on Thursday, May 20, 2021. The society is offering a number of upcoming events, workshops and videos to help educate friends and family members who have loved ones that are drug users. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)

Jodi Higgs (right) holds a vial of naloxone and Christine Christensen holds a kit in the parking lot of the Pacific Community Resources Society in Chilliwack on Thursday, May 20, 2021. The society is offering a number of upcoming events, workshops and videos to help educate friends and family members who have loved ones that are drug users. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)


 

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