Press Release: Drug users launch speakers bureau targeting organizations, businesses, and educators
Tuesday, January 15, 2019 (Vancouver, BC) - A team of current and former drug users have joined forces with Megaphone Magazine to form a Speakers Bureau aimed at improving understandings and responses to addiction and overdose in the Lower Mainland.
“Listen, I’m not naive to the effects drugs have on me, my body, my family, and my community,” says Nicolas Crier, one of two peer facilitators developing the program with Megaphone. “But if ‘drugs are harmful’ is where the conversation stops, we’re going to be stuck in an overdose and addiction crisis for a really long time.”
Megaphone’s Speakers Bureau, presented in partnership with Central City Foundation, aims to help service providers, educators, businesses and community groups access best practices, solutions and insights from people with lived experience of addiction and overdose. Individuals can attend an upcoming public event while organizations, businesses, events and educators can contact Megaphone to arrange a speaking engagement or private workshop. The first public event is Wednesday, February 6 from 7-9pm at UBC Robson Square.
“Understanding the experiences of people who use drugs is fundamental to effective housing and health care, sound drug policy, and inclusive communities,” says Jessica Hannon, executive director of Megaphone Magazine, who developed the concept with the City of Vancouver’s Lived Experience Advisory Committee. “The Speakers Bureau pairs organizations, businesses, groups and others with trained, supported people who use drugs who want to share their experience and perspective.”
The Speakers Bureau team members offer customized, interactive workshops and presentations focused on:
- improving understanding of the realities and experiences of people who use drugs;
- addressing the effects of drug-related stigma and discrimination;
- overdose prevention and response training; and
- optimizing services for people who use drugs.
Public events are free and workshops and presentations are offered on a sliding scale.
“The expertise of people who use drugs is central to our ability to beat the overdose crisis and come out the other side a safer and more inclusive city,” says Vancouver Mayor Kennedy Stewart. “Through workshops with Megaphone’s Speakers Bureau, your business, organization, classroom, or community can help fuel a more effective, compassionate response to drug use.”
The City of Vancouver provided core funding for the project, which has since evolved into a two-year pilot program thanks to multi-year support from presenting sponsor, Central City Foundation, and contributions from the BC Centre on Substance Use, University of British Columbia, Community Action Initiative, and a media sponsorship from CBC Vancouver.
“The stigma faced by our neighbours in the inner city who are challenged by addiction or who use drugs dehumanizes the opioid crisis in many ways and prevents the individual stories from being told,” says Jennifer Johnstone, President and CEO of Central City Foundation. “We’re supporting the Speakers Bureau – a training program, support group and peer employment program all wrapped in one – because it opens a dialogue with our neighbours about the bigger picture of the systemic factors that underlie the epidemic of addiction in our community.”
In addition to having a history of speaking publicly on matters related to drug use, Speakers Bureau members participate in a training program and attend ongoing peer-driven professional development and support sessions. For more details, including information on upcoming public events and how to book a workshop for your organization, visit megaphonemagazine.com/speakersbureau.
If media would like to arrange pre-interviews or speak directly to storytellers at this or future events, please contact Michaela Montaner at [email protected].
About Megaphone Magazine
Megaphone offers people experiencing poverty and homelessness products, platforms, and training programs to help them earn a living while advocating for themselves and their communities. Through programming like Megaphone Magazine, the Hope In Shadows Calendar, and now the Speakers Bureau, Megaphone is working to change the story on homelessness and poverty in our communities.
About the presenting sponsor, Central City Foundation
Central City Foundation has been bringing neighbours together to build hope in the inner city since 1907. By building housing and other capital projects, investing in social enterprises that create jobs and opportunities as well as funding hundreds of non-profit organizations, Central City Foundation has provided help and hope to our neighbours in the inner city community for 112 years.