PAN Letter to Parliamentary Secretary Megan Dykeman


December 15, 2022

Megan Dykeman, MLA
Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development and Non-Profits
Parliament Buildings
Victoria, BC V8V 1X4

Sent via email: [email protected]


Dear Parliamentary Secretary Dykeman:

On behalf of PAN, I write to congratulate you on your appointment to the position of Parliamentary Secretary for Community Development and Non-Profits. PAN is a network of more than forty community-based organizations (CBOs) working on the frontlines of the drug poisoning crisis. Our members provide harm reduction, HIV and hepatitis C services across BC, including in many rural and remote communities. Our members also address related key issues identified in your mandate letter, such as housing, food insecurity, and working to provide supports to those most vulnerable to climate change and extreme weather events.

Your mandate letter acknowledges that the challenges confronting both rural and urban communities are urgent and complex – and to our way of thinking, none is more urgent or complex than the province-wide drug poisoning crisis. We write to request a meeting with you to discuss how we can strengthen our collective response to this crisis, which continues to decimate individuals, families and communities. It is now the leading cause of unnatural death for all of BC, and second only to cancers in terms of years of life lost. Since the province first declared a public health emergency in April 2016, more than 10,000 people have died – and these deaths were preventable.

With almost 7 British Columbians dying every day from drug poisoning there is an urgent need to remove all barriers to an effective response. CBOs, including peer-run organizations led by people with lived and living experiences, excel at providing relational care and meeting people where they are at. But many organizations are struggling to respond to the growing need for supports for people who use substances.

Part of this is a resourcing issue on a systems level, as many CBOs and peer run organizations in the health sector do not have access to core funding. Funding provided by the health authorities does not build on the strengths of community-led groups but rather treats them as if they were a business. Contracts are often short-term in duration and/or subject to regular re-procurement, which limits the ability to support long-term and sustained responses.

The other related challenge is with regard to human resources. The cumulative effects of the grief and loss experienced by those working on the front lines, particularly for peers, is having a devastating impact on the work force. This is where the lack of sustainable funding in turn undermines our ability to sustain staffing levels in an increasingly competitive labour market. The ongoing lack of job security is challenging for all those who choose to work in community and on the front lines. The negative impact on peers and those with lived and living experiences doing this work are more acute. In addition to trauma and loss, peer workers often have to contend with the added element of not knowing if they will be able to continue in their efforts to keep others safe due to precarious employment. When community-based and peer-led organizations are not able to make long-term commitments to their peer colleagues, this undermines the very people who are best situated to provide support, nurture relationships, and offer the leadership and the solutions required to effectively address this crisis.

All these realities were recognized by the Select Standing Committee on Health, which was convened in April 2022 to examine the urgent and ongoing illicit drug toxicity and overdose crisis. As noted in their report titled Closing Gaps, Reducing Barriers: Expanding the response to the toxic drug and overdose crisis, released on November 1, 2022:

Committee Members discussed the critical role that community organizations—such as non-profits and community-led groups, including drugs user groups—play in responding to the drug toxicity and overdose crisis, especially in areas where there is a lack of other supports and services. They acknowledged that these groups are well-placed to identify and respond to community needs. The Committee discussed that many community groups highlighted that their current funding structure is piecemeal and short-term, and agreed on the need to provide these groups with sustainable and multi-year funding so they can dedicate more time to providing important services rather than to trying to secure funds. (p.59)


The Committee recommends to the Legislative Assembly that the provincial government:
32. Provide sustainable, multi-year funding to community groups, including non-profits and community-led (drug user) groups, that includes accountability measures to support people-centered outcomes.
34. Create and fund significant additional human resources capacity to respond to the drug toxicity and overdose crisis through the retention, recruitment, and training of new and existing health care and social services professionals and peers. (p.61)

Parliamentary Secretary Dykeman, we would like to hear your thoughts on how your office can help to advance these recommendations, which have the non-partisan support of all political parties. We look forward to meeting with you as soon as possible, to discuss how working together, we can ensure that PAN members, CBOs, and peer-led groups, do not remain an under-utilized resource, and that collectively we are doing all we can to support their critical efforts providing life-saving harm reduction services across BC.


Yours sincerely,

J. Evin Jones, Executive Director


CC. Honourable Niki Sharma, Chair, Select Standing Committee on Health, and Attorney General
Honourable Sheila Malcolmsen, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction
Honourable Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions
Honourable Adrian Dix, Minister of Health
David Galbraith – Deputy Minister – Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction