“This office is going to be so important.”
Sitting at a table inside the Coalition of Substance Users of the North (CSUN)’s new office in West Quesnel, volunteer Louise Wannop said she feels the peer support that is offered in this space is going to be very valuable.
“Peer support is so important because people need someone to talk to, someone to listen to them and someone to relate to,” she said. “We’re going to be able to do more and more out of this office as people get to know where we are.”
CSUN held the grand opening for its new office on Saturday, Aug. 31 during International Overdose Awareness Day.
The office is located at Unit 3, 445 Anderson Dr., across from Aroma Foods in West Quesnel, and is open Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 4-8 p.m., and closed Tuesday and Thursday.
At this location, CSUN is offering naloxone training and distribution; harm reduction training and the distribution of harm reduction supplies; peer-to-peer support services; peer support for family and friends affected by substance use; drug checking; focus groups and general meetings; peer engagement, training and education opportunities; advocacy with health services partners; testing for HIV, Hepatitis C and sexually transmitted disease; partnerships with cross-sectoring groups; and referrals to mental health and wellness services. CSUN also has a partnership with the Clean Team, which cleans up garbage and drug paraphernalia on the streets.
CSUN is an alliance of people who use or have used currently illicit drugs.
“Our members are dedicated to improving life for all substance users who live in the northern region of B.C. and throughout Canada,” according to CSUN’s mission statement. “CSUN supports substance users by facilitating the development of programs, services and resources for our community members and providing regional representation and community-based participation in B.C.’s and Canada’s overall response to the overdose crisis and any and all matters impacting people who use drugs.”
For CSUN volunteer Dawn Cameron, one of the most important things about this new office is that there is no stigma here.
“We only want every single person who walks through the door to feel loved,” she said.
Cameron says another important piece of the work being done out of this office is that CSUN involves peers in what the coalition brings forward.
“It’s been amazing to see the people who have gotten involved in CSUN and how empowered they get,” she said.
One of the people Cameron is amazed to see transform is her close friend Megan McHone.
McHone is a volunteer with CSUN, and she says it has made a huge difference in her life.
“For the first time in my life, I’m not ashamed to be a substance user,” she said. “I’m valuable, and my time is valuable. I’m a human being.
“It has inspired me, for sure, to speak up for people who can’t speak up or are ashamed. The stigma is real.”
For CSUN volunteer Ray Beaulieu, CSUN is a gateway.
“It’s a beginning to possibly, maybe, educating society and the citizens about what’s really going on in the streets with drugs and the cause and effect,” he said. “CSUN for me is a gateway to maybe do something good for people with their addictions and their everyday life.”
Beaulieu feels the new office is in a good location, and he says they’ve already seen more and more people come in since the office opened.
“We don’t just provide safe supplies,” he said. “We provide someone to talk to, and that’s important. One fellow came in and had a nap — you could tell he’d been walking all night. Not all these people are criminals, and they are definitely not animals. It’s not right to treat them like animals.”
“And what a great bunch of ladies to be working with,” he added. “It’s going to be fun.”
Tanya Judd is a CSUN volunteer and is also on the Clean Team and on the Mental Health and Addictions Advisory Committee.
“We are doing a great service to the community, and it has been an honour to do the work we’ve been doing,” she said. “If we can turn it into an OPS (Overdose Prevention Site) at one time, the amount of garbage we will save and the lives we will save — getting them off the streets is amazing and giving them a safe place to go.”
For more information about CSUN and its services, call 250-991-0091.