A handful of communities within the Vancouver Coastal Health region — including Powell River — have Community Action Teams (CATs), offering support to people who use drugs.

But now, as the Province invests $2.5-million to aid both new and existing CATs, they’ll have extra funds to continue their vital work in the areas they serve.

Through on-the-ground support tailored to local community needs, these teams aim to reduce the risk of illicit drug toxicity deaths in areas hit hardest by the overdose crisis.

In addition to Powell River, within the Coastal Health region CATs can be found in Nuxalk, Sea to Sky, Sunshine Coast, and Vancouver. By the fall of this year, there will be a total of 36 teams across B.C.

Nancy Burchell, project coordinator at CAT Fort St. John, says staff is ‘extremely grateful’ to the Province for the funding. She finds CATs really play an ‘integral role’ in responding to the overdose crisis.

According to the Province, CATs not only help save lives, but reduce drug harms by distributing naloxone, supporting overdose prevention services, providing peer supports, and reducing stigma.

CATs also play a vital role in service navigation, support, and advocacy, the Province notes. They’re made up of community partners, like First Nations communities, municipalities, front-line community agencies, and people and families with lived experience.

“I have lived a life that included active addiction and have experienced overdose myself. I have also worked on trying to help others who were also trapped in the cycle of addiction,” says Carl Howard of CAT Burnaby.

“Being part of a CAT (as a peer) has really been an important tool to address the overdose crisis,” Howard says, adding he’s ‘very thankful’ that this activity has been, and is going to continue to be funded.