People who use drugs

Jessica Bridgeman has worked as close to the opioid crisis as anyone could — she and her colleagues quite literally helped to write the manual on harm reduction for frontline staff to follow. 

Bridgeman, a regional harm reduction co-ordinator with the Interior Health Authority, has been on the "frontlines," so to speak, for almost a decade. 

"I think there are a lot of good fights to be fought out there. This is the one I have chosen to work in. It just calls to me. I think it matters. I believe that people have rights and there are good people out there." 

On the front page of the "Guide to Harm Reduction" manual are words like compassion, dignity and respect — terms not always associated with people who use drugs. 

"Society has a long history of understanding addiction in a moral sense," she says. "I think we are getting our message out. We are actively working towards destigmatizing a lot of what is going on."

Bridgeman, her colleagues and her counterparts across the province have been pushing for communities to adopt a mentality that supports the belief that just because somebody uses or is addicted to drugs, doesn't mean they are a bad person — Drugs and addiction do not discriminate.
Tolerance plays a role, she says.

"Hopefully, some of the rhetoric on social media is from the minority, but we know that it is not helpful," explains Bridgeman, when asked her views on shaming tactics used on social media. 

"Pointing out and highlighting some of these tragic experiences, (on social media) or the spaces in which some of these people are living reinforces this idea that you have to hit rock bottom," says Bridgman. "It doesn't contribute to a solution. If that worked, we wouldn't see the problem anymore." 

The fact is, the shaming tactics further stigmatize and dehumanize those who use drugs and those with addictions to drugs, pushing them further into the dark.

"We know that using in isolation is incredibly risky. If you are using alone, your risk right now of death is very high," says Bridgeman. 

According to the BC Coroners Service, In 2017 more than 1,430 people died from illicit drug overdoses. Roughly 90 per cent of those deaths occurred while inside, the majority were men and many were found alone.

Bridgeman provides an example of how public shaming hurts harm reduction efforts. 

"If I was an individual who was a part of some of the social media groups, public conversations and forums that exist right now, and I was using in isolation, and I saw my colleagues, my friends, my boss, even family members sharing thoughts on social media in such an open way that is not supportive, I am not very likely to come out and share." 

Bridgeman added, "If I am being talked about in a negative way, that is not increasing the likelihood of me actually saying, I am somebody who uses substances, or I am somebody who uses in a problematic way, I need help." 

As a society, we all have a role to play in lifting the stigma around this subject, that includes the mainstream media.

The terminology and photos used by media can reinforce a false narrative.

Bridgeman says instead of saying "drug users", the term should be "people/person who use drug" and use pictures that depict the crisis more accurately:

  • cocaine on a neatly organized office desk
  • a young man on a sofa at a house party, head bowed seemingly sleeping
  • a small bag of powder next to a teenager’s text book

For most people, it is difficult to make sense of an issue like drug addiction, especially in the light of so many overdose deaths in recent years. 

In a perfect world, Bridgeman says people would try and understand the issue in a proactive way, not a reactive one. 

"Dialogue about a certain issue — in this case substance use — would include people with lived experience. Where all parties involved who are negatively affected, positively affected or otherwise not affected at all, are at the table to listen and learn from one another," she says.

What are the complex factors that lead people to a variety of different substance abuse experiences? 

"Nobody wants to have to experience improperly discarded needles and people sleeping or going to the bathroom in public spaces, the people that are experiencing that type of a lifestyle don't want to be doing that either, but we need to come at this with a proactive way and understand what is at play here," she says.

"So, really trying to understand the differences in how people get to this place and how we can be a supporter, and advocate and a helper to people who might need it.

If we can't ask ourselves how we can be part of the solution than I don't think we are going to get very far."



Take five and have fun

Chantelle Deacon

A video featuring hopscotch went viral after it was posted to Facebook.

Castanet decided to film a similar video to see if Vernonites would stop and have a little fun.

People always seem to be in a rush, but will you take a few seconds out of your busy day to stop and play a round or two of hopscotch if it's chalked on the sidewalk you walk down every day?

After about a week of having hopscotch chalked on the sidewalk Castanet employees can confirm more than 100 people lit up when they saw it and played along.

We set up a camera on Thursday and filmed the reaction the community had as they came across the hopscotch.

People of all ages did their best to skip, walk or hop on through.

Castanet plans to keep the hopscotch game going on all summer to hopefully brighten up some dull days.

Swimmers win big

Nine swimmers brought home hardware from the Masters Nationals Swimming Championships in Calgary over the weekend.

The team put Salmon Arm on the map, achieving fourth place in Canada among medium-sized teams and eighth place overall in the country.

"Each Salmon Arm waves master swimmer achieved personal success at nationals," said head coach, Barry Healey.  "This nine-person team made waves at the Repsol Sports Centre, along with 22 family members cheering in the stands for support."

Jill Nahm, 33, swam five relays for the team and brought home two bronze medals, swimming breaststroke in all medley relays.

Emily Taylor, 30, a backstroker for the team, came home with a bronze medal in the 100 back and a silver medal in the 200 back.

Claire Askew, 35, achieved a bronze medal swimming 1,500 metres.

Nadine Quilty, 48, trained to swim fly in three relays and the 100 IM, 200 IM, and 400 IM. She finished fourth in the 400 IM.

Don Cundiff, 40,  placed sixth in the 800 metre free. He also won bronze in the 400 metre medley relay, swimming breaststroke, and brought home a silver in the 4x100 men’s freestyle relay.

Doug Wickware, 31, achieved silver in both the 800 metre free and 1500 metre free.

Rudi Ingenhorst, 70, swam in 12 events bringing home a silver medal in the 100 back, and bronze medals in the 200 IM, 50 m back, 50 m free, and 50 m breast.

Bob Wilkins, 70, achieved gold in the 100 metre back. He brought home three silver medals in 400 free, 800 free and 1500 free. Wilkins also swims all strokes and brought home silver in the 200 back and silver in the 400 IM.

Scott McKee, 58, rounded off the men’s side of the team with a gold in the 400 free event. He also placed silver in both 200 free and silver in 1500 free.


Safety first at rail crossings

Not only can it be dangerous to cross train tracks at a random spot, it is also illegal.

Doing so can net a fine of $115. So too can failing to obey railway crossing controls, such as a stop sign or flashing lights.

The CN Rail Police and the RCMP were reminding people of this during a blitz Thursday in Vernon.

“We are targeting people who are crossing the tracks illegally,” said Sgt. Andrew Spanos, of the CN Rail Police.

Spanos, along with a member of the RCMP, were at the Polson Mall parking where many people cross the tracks from Polson Park.

So many people have done it, there is a path from the park to the cinema parking lot.

“The other thing that we are looking for today is motorists that are failing to obey the control devices at railway crossings,” said Spanos, noting the CN Rail Police have the same authority as the RCMP.

“In B.C. last year, there were approximately 20 incidences of train versus vehicle and trespassers.”

Across Canada, there were 222 incidents last year, resulting in 72 fatalities.

“It's an offence under the railway safety act to walk over the railway tracks and the fine is $115,” said Spanos.

Harcourt on True Leaf

Former Premier of British Columbia Mike Harcourt will be a featured speaker at the BC Pharmacy Association’s Annual Conference tomorrow.

Harcourt is now the Chair of Vernon based True Leaf Medicine International. 

Harcourt is expected to share his personal experience with chronic pain following a serious spinal cord injury while presenting a new "Patient-First Model for Medicinal Cannabis Therapy" vision for True Leaf.

"He will speak to his vision that pharmacists and naturopaths are complementary elements in a healing chain," stated True Leaf in a press release.

In 2002, Harcourt slipped off his summer cottage deck and fell 20 feet down a steep embankment, suffering a number of injuries. 

At the time, it wasn’t expected Harcourt would walk again, let alone participate in everyday activities.   

Harcourt will be joined by other experts, including Dr. Julio Montaner, Director, BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and André Picard, National Health Writer, The Globe and Mail. 
This year’s conference will take place from May 24-26, 2018, at the Fairmont Empress Hotel Victoria. It will mark the BC Pharmacy Association's 50th anniversary and celebrate the many faces of pharmacy. The program includes workshops, presentations and panel discussions from leading Canadian experts on opioid agonist therapy, cannabis, and other hot topics.

Patients welcomed back

The North Okanagan Hospice Society welcomes their patients back after evacuating them from the building a little over two weeks ago.

On May 9 high water levels along BX Creek put the building at risk of flooding.

"Our number one priority is safe, quality care,” said Elsie Swartz, care team leader of the North Okanagan Hospice Society. “We are grateful for the quick response from Interior Health’s exceptional health-care professionals and the City of Vernon’s Emergency Preparedness team in our time of need."

Hospice Society patients were staying at the Vernon Jubilee Hospital from May 9 to 24.

"We wish to thank everyone involved for ensuring that a high level of safety, care and comfort was maintained for our patients and their families during the relocation. We also thank our staff, volunteers and the community for their ongoing support. We look forward to resuming our regular operations and welcoming everyone back to Hospice House.”

BX Creek water levels have now stabilized and the risk of flooding is minimal.

Rockin' arena opening

There will be a rockin' opening to Vernon second ice sheet in September.

The city's newest arena is attached to Kal Tire Place and three days of activities are planned to celebrate its opening, including a concert by '80s rock super bands Platinum Blonde and Loverboy.

Dean Francks and Calvin Cane of CFI Productions are organizing the concert in partnership with the City of Vernon.

Francks said the plan is to have a Vipers game Friday, Sept. 7, the full arena concert Sept. 8 and other events on Sept. 9.

“It's bigger than just a concert,” said Francks. “We are promoting the grand opening of the second ice surface. It will be the first major event in that building.”

While all the details have yet to be ironed out, Cane said on Sunday Sept. 9 there will be live local bands performing at the new arena which will be open for the public to wander around and check out.

A large farmers market is also in the works for the Sunday.

Francks said Vernon has not had a lot of full arena shows over the years and he and Cane are excited by chance to “blow the doors off the place with a big rock and roll show.”

Concert tickets go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. through ticketseller.ca.

“We want to let people know it's going to be a big three day event and more details will be coming out,” said Francks.

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