ANKORS East Kootenay details concerns surrounding harm reduction amid COVID-19

ANKORS East Kootenay details concerns surrounding harm reduction amid COVID-19

Harm reduction providers are having to keep up with rapidly changing situation

AIDS Network, Outreach, and Support Society (ANKORS) of the East Kootenay have modified their protocols in order to continue helping some of the region’s most vulnerable populations amid the COVID-19 situation, and Polly Sutherland, team lead and peer development coordinator, said she has some concerns presented by these unique circumstances.

“I’m definitely seeing people coming for supplies and people coming for food that are looking like they’re struggling,” Sutherland said.

ANKORS, a grassroots, non-profit organization established in 1993, offers harm reduction services to populations in the world who are the most vulnerable to blood-borne pathogens like HIV, AIDS and hepatitis C. They offer a needle exchange program, harm reduction supplies and condoms. They also have peer health navigators who work directly with people impacted by things like the opioid crisis, who might need referrals or emotional support.

READ MORE: EKASS still providing help to those dealing with substance use amid COVID-19

An educator works out of their office at 46 17 Ave S in Cranbrook, who offers one-to-one education and group education on topics including blood-borne infections, substance use, harm reduction, mental health and addictions.

“Most of the staff at ANKORS, we come from a variety, we are a real mix of people but we all have a lived experience with something like that, so we’re able to really connect to people and connect with them,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland adds that she’s seeing some things resulting from the stress and isolation of this outbreak that are very concerning, adding she’s particularly concerned about women.

“Recently I’ve seen a couple of the females that come in and access our service; one’s got a black eye and she’s saying ‘well I’m with my partner and it’s getting ugly,” because that’s the only place she has to go to right now.”

Sutherland explained she’s seeing women staying in violent relationships right now because they’re having to isolate and can’t go out to access other resources they normally had.

ANKORS programs are designed to give people a break from their drug use. For example, they offer a harm reduction breakfast from 8:30 a.m. to 10 on Fridays and 9:30 to 11 on Saturdays. Because of social distancing mandates, they are still offering a breakfast wrap and coffee, but have to offer it to-go, through their side door.

People can still access their peer health navigators, information and emotional support, but it has to be done over the phone rather than in person. It’s become harder for people living in difficult circumstances get invaluable in-person support.

“Harm reduction does not put an emphasis on people to stop use, rather to support them in their decisions around reducing their harm,” Sutherland explained.

“So what I see here is that now we don’t get that because of the COVID response. I can’ talk with people at the breakfast and bring them in for a couple hours to get out of the rain and hang out and maybe rest and not be using. So that part’s really hard.”

The staff is still available, Sutherland emphasized, even though working in out of the ordinary circumstances. People who need support or fact-based information and resources can call her cell directly at 250-421-4949, or they can call Nikki, one of ANKORS’ peer health navigators at 778-687-3335. She is also available to drop supplies off without having contact with people.

If people are in need of harm reduction supplies, they can go to the side door of ANKORS on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sutherland asks that you knock on the door and place your order with staff while respecting safe physical distance.

“We take an order of what harm reduction supplies they might need from condoms to bubble pipes, anything like that,” Sutherland explained. “We get the order for them, we bring it out, and set it down and they receive it for free.”

One way that people can help support ANKORS through these times is by donating to their harm reduction breakfasts, as they are currently trying to expand this program to include two more mornings a week that breakfast is available.

“I’ve got funding for the year, so that money would go directly to helping those people right now,” Sutherland said. “And it would enable us to get more food into people’s hands and especially for the breakfast to open up more days so that at least they can come. Right now there’s three other days in the week that people can’t get breakfast. So we’re trying to fill in that void.”

Additionally, donations can help ANKORS provide to people impacted by substance use or by blood borne pathogens.

“Any money we ever get stays directly in our organization to go out to people in the communities, nowhere else. It stays local and it’s used in a variety of ways to get harm reduction messaging or do projects to help people.”

Giving grocery cards is another big way to help out. Sutherland has a program that is ending soon called Love Your Health, where people can come and learn about a health-related topic, and at the end get a $20 grocery card.

“My numbers have increased to like 25 people that come each month and my funding is only for 15 people,” Sutherland said. “And so I’ve exhausted my grocery cards two months earlier, because I want to keep it going through the winter and so that kind of thing would be just ideal.”

As the COVID-19 crisis is perpetually evolving, Sutherland said ANKORS needs to stay on top of updates in order to keep their staff and clients safe. For example, she said the organization is currently awaiting directives from the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) regarding safe use of naloxone kits, which help save people from an opioid overdose. They are currently unsure if the masks in the kit protect against the virus.

“[BCCDC] can’t tell us for sure that that is safe and so that changes the game with giving a person breath if they’re overdosing,” explained Sutherland.

Another recent update that concerned Sutherland was the changes at the Cranbrook Emergency Shelter.

The emergency shelter, run by the Salvation Army in Cranbrook, will be changing to a different location under the management of BC Housing and Interior Health. Major Ginny Kristensen of the Salvation Army explained that they have been working with the two organizations to open a shelter in a different location, citing concerns of social distancing and the ability to keep staff and patrons safe. The Transition House, a women’s shelter in Cranbrook, will continue operations in the came location.

“ANKORS is different in that we respond the evolving need,” Sutherland said, adding she is currently working in the office alone. “All of a sudden it’s like, feeding these people is more important than anything right now. Giving them a condom’s great and all that stuff, but getting them some clothes, finding out about what shelter they can go to, so that’s where we’re upping our [protocols].”

More information on how ANKORS operates and how the services they provide can be found at https://ankors.bc.ca/



paul.rodgers@kimberleybulletin

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Coronavirus

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

Just Posted

Regional and local governments will eventually be required by the province to follow the BC Energy Step Code, which aims to reduce greenhouse gases from buildings. Some governments, now including the RDCK, have decided to phase it in voluntarily ahead of provincial deadlines. File photo
RDCK adopts Step 1 of provincial home energy efficiency plan

New buildings must comply with first level of the BC Energy Step Code

Teacher Casey Stowe and Principal Wendy Cutler from Twin Rivers Elementary with the donation. Photo: submitted
Castlegar school receives $2000 donation

Twin Rivers Elementary School will use the donation to enhance the school community.

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 70 new cases overnight

The total number of cases in the region is now at 1,426

Black bear feasting on mountain ash berries, a natural food source in the fall in the Castlegar area. Photo: submitted
Castlegar WildSafe received 144 reports of black bears this season

Submitted by WildSafeBC Castlegar A few bears continue to make a lasting… Continue reading

An employee of the Adventure Hotel was taken to hospital on Nov. 20 after she confronted a customer of Empire Coffee about not wearing a mask. File photo.
Nelson hotel employee suffers heart attack after being assaulted in anti-mask incident

An accountant at the Adventure Hotel is in hospital in Kelowna

A man wearing a face mask to help curb the spread of COVID-19 walks in downtown Vancouver, B.C., Sunday, Nov. 22, 2020. The use of masks is mandatory in indoor public and retail spaces in the province. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. records deadliest day of pandemic with 13 deaths, 738 new COVID-19 cases

Number of people in hospital is nearing 300, while total cases near 30,000

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

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

FILE - This May 4, 2020, file photo provided by the University of Maryland School of Medicine, shows the first patient enrolled in Pfizer's COVID-19 coronavirus vaccine clinical trial at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.  Pfizer announced Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2020, more results in its ongoing coronavirus vaccine study that suggest the shots are 95% effective a month after the first dose. (Courtesy of University of Maryland School of Medicine via AP, File)
VIDEO: B.C. planning for the rollout of COVID-19 vaccines in the first weeks of 2021

The question of who will get the vaccine first relies on Canada’s ethical framework

This undated photo issued by the University of Oxford shows of vial of coronavirus vaccine developed by AstraZeneca and Oxford University, in Oxford, England. (University of Oxford/John Cairns via AP)
Canada can make vaccines, just not the ones leading the COVID-19 race

Canada has spent more than $1 billion to pre-order seven different developing COVID-19 vaccines

British Columbia Premier John Horgan speaks during an announcement about a new regional cancer centre in Surrey, B.C., on Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020. Horgan is set to introduce his NDP government’s new cabinet Thursday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Horgan’s NDP cabinet built to tackle pandemic, economic recovery, says former premier

Seven former NDP cabinet ministers didn’t seek re-election, creating vacancies in several high-profile portfolios

The COVID-19 test centre at Peace Arch Hospital is located on the building’s south side. (Tracy Holmes photo)
B.C. woman calls for consistency in COVID-19 post-test messaging

‘Could we just get one thing straight?’ asks Surrey’s Deb Antifaev

(File photo)
Alberta woman charged after allegedly hitting boy with watermelon at Okanagan campsite

Police say a disagreement among friends at an Adams Lake campsite turned ugly

Court of Appeal for British Columbia in Vancouver. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
B.C. woman loses appeal to have second child by using late husband’s sperm

Assisted Human Reproduction Act prohibits the removal of human reproductive material from a donor without consent

Most Read