Members of a group called Addicts and Allies Humanizing Addiction spent Friday afternoon picking up biohazardous waste from Courtenay parks. Photo by Terry Farrell

Members of a group called Addicts and Allies Humanizing Addiction spent Friday afternoon picking up biohazardous waste from Courtenay parks. Photo by Terry Farrell

New addict peer outreach group forms in the Comox Valley

Addicts and Allies Humanizing Addiction offers harm reduction, supervised injection

Joanne Moore and Ed Patterson are lifelong Comox Valley residents.

Joanne is a mother of six, and has 12 grandchildren.

Ed is a fourth-generation Cumberlander.

They are also addicts.

Joanne and Ed belong to a newly-formed group called Addicts and Allies Humanizing Addiction (AAHA).

They want people to understand that, although they are battling drug addiction, they can still contribute to society in a positive manner.

That’s what their group is all about.

“We are a local group of addicts who focus on harm reduction education, overdose prevention, and community clean-ups in an effort to humanize people who use substances and reduce stigma related to addiction,” said Ed. “We offer naloxone training, harm reduction education, and a culture of acceptance regardless of an individual’s life circumstances.”

“There are nine of us in the group. We are all either in rehab, or still using,” said Joanne. “We all have families and friends that we have lost to the opioid crisis.”

AAHA has hosted naloxone training sessions, and harm reduction education in both the Comox Valley and Campbell River. It operates under the guidance of AIDS Vancouver Island (AVI). The AAHA members spent Friday afternoon picking up biohazardous materials (i.e. used syringes) that have been left in the downtown parks, and other areas addicts are known to frequent, in Courtenay.

“Today we are doing a community clean-up in and around Simms Park, Vanier, the swimming pool, and along the trails near the curling rink,” said Moore.

“We are trying to make the area safer for people, their children, their dogs,” said Patterson. “All this stuff gets left behind by irresponsible addicts, and because we are addicts ourselves, we are taking it upon ourselves to go clean those things up.”

These disposal receptacles contain approximately 110 used syringes, and other drug paraphernalia picked up by AAHA members during a community clean-up Friday, July 5. Photo submitted.

Friday’s clean-up netted more than 100 used syringes, as well as other discarded paraphernalia.

When they aren’t doing such community clean-ups, they are working on the front line of the opioid crisis – addicts as outreach workers, helping other addicts stay as safe as possible.

The members are all trained in harm reduction. They visit many of what Patterson calls the “trap houses” in the Comox Valley – houses where addicts go, primarily to get high, or engage in other nefarious activities – and they see the crisis at its very core.

“We go to the houses where people are ODing,” said Patterson. “The stuff we see you’ll never hear about, because it isn’t reported, so there are no stats. The hospitals, Island Health, they don’t get the real stats. The one house I was at last month, there were like 20 overdoses, but nobody died, so there’s 20 overdoses that go unreported.”

RELATED: Fatal overdoses mount on Vancouver Island

Patterson said he knows of 18 to 20 such “trap houses” in the Comox Valley.

He said he has reversed 23 overdoses with naloxone. Moore does not keep track, but estimates she has saved that many addicts, if not more.

“There’s lots,” she said. “[I saved a] 12-year-old prostitute up by the train tracks. That’s sad. That’s really, really sad.”

They both said that while naloxone is saving lives, it is also becoming part of the problem.

“There’s an over-abundance of naloxone out there – people think they can use as much as they want and as long as there’s naloxone around… ‘somebody will save me,’” said Patterson.

“So there’s a good and a bad side to [naloxone],” said Moore.

If you or someone you know is interested in naloxone training and/or harm reduction education, you can call the AAHA hotline (778-992-0771) to leave a message for the AAHA group. If someone is in need of an outreach worker, they are urged to call the number as well.

“We are out there, the nine of us, we all carry clean supplies at all times, we will respond, stay with you if you are using, so you aren’t alone. We all carry naloxone kits at all times,” said Moore. “We want to keep our community as safe as possible, and with us being out there, it’s getting a little safer every day.

“A lot of these people don’t feel they have anybody. But talking to somebody that’s right on the same level as them, which is all of us [in AAHA], it makes it so much easier. I can go right into the houses and not be a threat to them… they know I am not bringing in the cops.”

The AAHA group will be at summer events including an education table at the Courtenay Wednesday Night Markets on July 31 and Aug. 28 from 4-8 p.m.



terry.farrell@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A health-care worker prepares a dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine at a UHN COVID-19 vaccine clinic January 7, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Employers might be able to require COVID-19 vaccination from employees: B.C. lawyer

‘An employer must make the case’ using expert science, explains lawyer David Mardiros

On Aug. 26, 1947, a fire sparked in the lumber piles between Alberni Pacific Division sawmill and Alberni Plywood (located where Canal Waterfront Park is now). What resulted was a huge fire on Assembly Wharf One, where several buildings were gutted and stacks of lumber were burned. This photo is one of 24,000 contained in the Alberni Valley Museum’s digital archives, at https://portalberni.pastperfectonline.com. (PHOTO PN07386 COURTESY ALBERNI VALLEY MUSEUM)
LOOK BACK: 1947 fire destroys Port Alberni wharf

Take a peek into the Alberni Valley’s history with the Alberni Valley Museum

Artist Jim Holyoak’s installation “Quagmire.” Holyoak will be the first speaker for the Artist Talk Online Winter 2021 series. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
North Island College Artist Talk goes online for winter 2021

The series invites contemporary Canadian artists to speak about their professional practice

(NEWS FILE PHOTO)
City of Port Alberni, ACRD prepare for compost collection in 2021

Roadside pickup is expected to begin in the City of Port Alberni in June 2021

U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders sits in on a COVID-19 briefing with Dr. Bonnie Henry, provincial health officer, and Adrian Dix, B.C. minister of health. (Birinder Narang/Twitter)
PHOTOS: Bernie Sanders visits B.C. landmarks through the magic of photo editing

Residents jump on viral trend of photoshopping U.S. senator into images

A woman injects herself with crack cocaine at a supervised consumption site Friday, Jan. 22, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Drug users at greater risk of dying as services scale back in second wave of COVID-19

It pins the blame largely on a lack of supports, a corrupted drug supply

Wet’suwet’en supporters and Coastal GasLink opponents continue to protest outside the B.C. Legislature in Victoria, B.C., on Thursday, February 27, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
‘We’re still in it’: Wet’suwet’en push forward on rights recognition

The 670-km Coastal GasLink pipeline was approved by B.C. and 20 elected First Nations councils on its path

The sky above Mt. Benson in Nanaimo is illuminated by flares as search and rescuers help an injured hiker down the mountain to a waiting ambulance. (Photo courtesy Nanaimo Search and Rescue)
Search plane lights up Nanaimo mountain with flares during icy rope rescue

Rescuers got injured hiker down Mt. Benson to a waiting ambulance Saturday night

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Most Read