The Year in Review
PAN, as a provincial organization, gratefully and respectfully works and partners with Indigenous Peoples in what is often referred to as British Columbia.
The theme of this year’s PAN annual report is Doubling Down in Dual Public Health Emergencies. When talking about the theme for this year’s report and our upcoming AGM, we wanted to convey both the challenges facing our sector and communities, but also the strength and resilience of the network and our members. To double down means to carry on in an even more determined way than before – something we have seen PAN members do time and again over the past year in the face of COVID-19, the overdose crisis, and all their associated challenges and heartache. Doubling down also speaks to strengthening the commitment to action even where there are risks and potential adversity. It is PAN’s mission to support our members in doing just that.
One of PAN’s most important jobs is to advocate for adequate funding for the community-based sector. COVID and the ongoing overdose crisis continue to add to the workload, particularly on the front lines. Never has it been truer that members and allied organizations are being asked to do more with less. Over the past year and half PAN has been convening a monthly meeting of national advocates: sixteen community-based and human rights organizations and networks from across Canada. Our goal has been to make the case with the federal government and the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) that federal funding for HIV, hepatitis C, other STBBIs and harm reduction must be increased. Collectively we have expressed our concerns to Minister of Health Hajdu, secured a series of meetings with senior PHAC staff, met with PHAC President Iain Stewart, and developed a common set of key messages to guide our national work. Most recently, we issued a joint press release in advance of the federal election. This group will continue to meet and there is no doubt that working together makes our voices stronger.
Here in BC, PAN continuously works to profile the importance of the efforts of our members and allies, and to represent their concerns regarding sustainability and funding. We do this through our participation at the STOP Collaborative Implementation Committee (CIC), within the Collective Impact Network co-hosted by PAN and the Provincial Health Services Authority (PHSA), and through our communications with government, especially the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions (MMHA). For the second year in a row, we supported the PHSA’s provincial relief fund calls – this year the focus has been supporting front line overdose projects.
The ever-worsening overdose crisis continues to be a focus of our advocacy work, directly informed by the feedback and intelligence we hear from members and allies at our regular network and support meetings, and through other mechanisms such as our safe supply survey. Time and again we have heard about the devastating impact of the toxic drug supply on individuals, families and communities. We have heard about the limitations of “pandemic prescribing,” and the inability to connect people with prescribers or with genuine alternatives to the poisoned supply. We are concerned about the negative impacts of the ongoing criminalization of people who use drugs, and how municipal bylaws and policing practices have further stigmatized people, isolating them and putting them at greater risk of harm and death. We have heard about the levels of despair, grief, frustration and exhaustion that many of the staff and volunteers working on the front lines are experiencing.
We have worked to convey these realities to the Premier, to the Minister of Health, and to the Minister of Mental Health and Additions (MMHA). Earlier this year we had a meeting with Minister Malcolmsen and we continue to look for opportunities to meet with her, and others within the MMHA and Overdose Emergency Response Centre (OERC) – particularly in the wake of the provincial drug policy that was announced in July. Finally, over the past year, we have deepened our collaboration with the BC Centre on Substance Use (BCCSU) and community leaders, and supported PAN members in providing feedback on the revised risk mitigation clinical guidance and other key documents.
In addition to making the overdose crisis far worse, COVID-19 has brought many other challenges to the forefront and continues to highlight the many health inequities that exist in our society and how poverty, criminalization, food insecurity, lack of access to safe housing, isolation and mental health disproportionately impact Indigenous people, other racialized groups and the most vulnerable. PAN members have worked hard to respond to these challenges, being both creative and compassionate in the face of uncertainty, dealing with changing public health orders and workplace safety considerations – not to mention increasingly polarized public opinions regarding mask mandates and vaccination requirements. PAN members and allies have been consistently advocating for their members and clients in order to challenge inequities, while at the same time pivoting their own services and programs to meet the ever-changing demands. Throughout this time PAN has continued in our efforts to provide our members with the most accurate and up to date information and best practices regarding COVID via our website and the PAN Weekly News e-newsletter.
At the very start of the pandemic PAN began to convene regular meetings of our members and allies, and we continue to do so. These meetings have offered an opportunity for all of us to connect with each other in the spirit of mutual support and to share information. These meetings have also been an invaluable opportunity for PAN staff to hear directly from members about their concerns regarding COVID and other issues, and in turn to bring forward those concerns to the health authorities, the province, funders and other decision makers.
Despite the many changes and uncertainties of the last year, PAN’s Strategic Plan continues to guide our work, with the Board providing steady governance and oversight throughout. PAN continues to strengthen our governance by seeking out and supporting skilled and passionate regional representatives and people with lived experience for our Board, so that the challenges faced by members from across our province can be recognized and supported. We are very excited to have a strong slate of candidates running for election at this year’s AGM. As an aside, the Board has also been working diligently in the background to ensure PAN’s brand aligns with its mission – stay tuned!
One of PAN’s values is to uphold reconciliation with Canada’s Indigenous Peoples. This value has driven much of the work of the Inclusion Committee this year, including the development of some Indigenous Cultural Safety Resources. We have also been working with the wonderful consulting team at Indigenous Perspectives Society (IPS), including undertaking an organizational Cultural Needs Assessment, and moving forward with a series of recommendations for the staff and board. This coming year the board and staff will be working with IPS in the creation of a Cultural Agility Workplan, with objectives and a timeline, to help guide our work.
We – Katrina, Patrick and Evin – are deeply appreciative of the staff’s efforts over another tough year, as well as for the dedication of the board members who have helped guide our ship. Above all, thank you to our members and allies, who are the “inspired, strong, and effective community-based response to HIV, hepatitis C, and related health and social justice issues”. In the end it is your voices that drive and inspire all of PAN’s work with regards to advocacy and policy change, our governance – indeed that drives all of our programming. We invite you to read more about the programming and service offerings within Training and Leadership; Community-based Research; Evaluation; the Collective Impact Network; and Resources. Thank you to everyone for your input and participation. Thank you for your leadership and tenacity. And thank you for doubling down in your commitment to social justice, and for the hard work you are doing each and every day.
For more on PAN’s advocacy and leadership, and/or the work of the board of directors please contact J. Evin Jones, Executive Director at [email protected], Katrina Jensen, PAN Board Co-Chair at [email protected] and Patrick McDougall, PAN Board Co-Chair at [email protected]
Image: Patrick Hendry, Unsplash