The Collective Impact Network (CIN) is a Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA) sponsored initiative, being co-led by PAN acting as the backbone. It consists of the six PHSA-contracted agencies that are supporting the community-based response to HIV and HCV, alongside the PHSA, and including the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) and BC Women’s Hospital.
The goal of the CIN is to facilitate collaboration on priority areas that will best support people living with HIV and HCV and the frontline organizations that serve them. We are featuring blogs on each agency in the CIN and what they bring to the CIN… so you can get to know them, hear some stories and meet the people!
DJ Larkin, Legal Director
Pivot works on behalf of marginalized communities to create a just, fair and equal society through litigation, law reform, research and legal education. Follow us on Twitter: @PivotLegal | Facebook: @PivotLegalSociety | Instagram: @PivotLegal
Personally, what led you into taking on your role?
One of the primary reasons I am drawn to working at Pivot is because of the organization’s dedication to developing our work in consultation with and based on the experiences of people most affected by unjust laws, policies and policing practices. Pivot was founded in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside and remains deeply embedded in that community. Project Inclusion marks the first opportunity in Pivot’s 17-year history to extend our deep community listening to people in communities across BC. It is only by hearing directly from people whose health and safety are put at risk by our existing legal, bureaucratic, service provision and law enforcement systems, that we can vision a better and healthier society. The solutions to so many of the issues we are facing across BC must be driven by people with lived experience. I could not be more thrilled to have the opportunity to hear from people around our province and to dedicate my efforts towards finding systemic solutions to their most pressing concerns.
Can you tell a story that excites you about the impact your work is having?
I was walking down an alley in one small community we visited when a man ran up to me crying, “I heard there was a lawyer here who can help me.” During our visit, we had spent some time letting service providers know about a new federal law that had just come into force that week. The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act, was implemented in the spring of 2017 to provide some protections against arrest and prosecution for people at the scene of an overdose. “I got arrested at my own overdose,” he told me, showing me the paperwork he was given by police. He had heard from a service provider about the new law and hurried to find us while we were in town. I was able to give him some resources and information to bring to his defence lawyer. I found out a few weeks later that the charges against him were dropped.
We can’t be there every time someone’s life and health are jeopardized because they risk arrest when what they need is healthcare. What we can do is make sure that man’s story, and the stories of many others, are heard and that those experiences help create a system where no one fears calling for help during an overdose.
Within a matter of days, we reached out to police, and the provincial and federal government to inform them of our concerns and to ensure that this man’s experience would not be ignored. We created a Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act rights and information card and have been advocating for law and policy reform, as well as better police training, ever since.
When someone who uses drugs is criminalized due to their health needs, their lives are put at risk and their ability to protect themselves from contracting communicable diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C is compromised. We vision a community where that man would have received health care – not a police officer.
What is the unique value that your agency brings to the Collective Impact Network (CIN) and its priority areas?
Pivot is unique within the CIN. We are not a service agency, a clinic, or a peer-based network. Our role is not to stand in place of any of those organizations, but rather to hear from and work alongside people with lived experience and the organizations that serve them to put their experiences into a legal and societal context. If we can trace the experiences of 50 people we heard from during Project Inclusion up to one unjust law or policy, we have the potential to positively impact the lives of hundreds or thousands of people by fighting those structural injustices.
Stigma is not only a social issue. Stigma underlies laws and policies throughout our country and one of the many tools needed to advance the interests of historically – and currently – marginalized people, is to change the laws that keep people on the margins.
So far, what have you learnt – or how has your work been enhanced – by being a part of the network?
We have benefited greatly from the networks that the CIN members are a part of. One of our priorities in taking on Project Inclusion was to ensure we heard from people we would otherwise never meet. In order to do that we have had the opportunity to collaborate with CIN members to build relationships around BC and to lay the foundation for bringing the voices of young people into this part of our work.
As a legal, not a health or research, organization we have benefited from the expertise in the room. Whether it be Hepatitis C or HIV – specific knowledge or community-based research practices, Pivot has grown as a result of our connection to the CIN.
How can (and why should) readers get involved with your agency?
Speak up. Be a voice for inclusion in your community. Where people are excluded, where laws are designed to push out people living in poverty, and where policing is putting people’s lives and safety at risk, take the time to learn about the issues and question policy makers. You can start with our reports, policy papers and rights cards, click on “Resources” at www.pivotlegal.org.
Show up. Decisions are often made based on who speaks up and who is in the room. Question your local politicians on their commitment to people living in poverty, and people at risk of HIV, Hepatitis C and overdose. Show up at community consultations and tell your city council that you support accessible and effective health care, shelter and housing initiatives in your community.
And finally – vote.
Questions? Feedback? Get in touch!
Simon Goff, Executive Assistant and Collective Impact Coordinator, [email protected]