SOWINS getting federal dollars to continue its outreach program

Funding supports women

The South Okanagan Women in Need Society are receiving federal funding to allow their outreach program to reach more people.

Federal Minister of Mental Health and Addictions Carolyn Bennett was in Penticton Friday morning to announce the fund.

SOWINS is one of three "community led projects" across the province who will share in more than $3 million in funding.

"This is about saving lives," said Bennett, who reminded those in attendance more than 30,000 people have died as a result of toxic drug overdoes in Canada since 2016 including more than 11,000 in B.C.

"In this polarized debate on a pathway to deal with the overdose and poisoned drug supply that there is no recovery for people who are dead. We have to keep people alive.

"That's what harm reduction means, how do we keep people alive to be able to get into the kinds of supportive care and housing and building that relationship with a trusted person who actually cares."

Acting SOWINS executive director Liz Gomez says the funding will allow them to increase the time their outreach van is able to be on the street helping people across the South Okanagan.

"Although we are fortunate to have renewed our funding agreement with Interior Health, that only allows us two days a week for our outreach services," says Gomez.

"Receiving this grant means we can now offer services throughout the South Okanagan for up to five days per week."

The grant will provide SOWINS with $341,332 over 26 months.

Gomez says the funding will also allow SOWINS to bring on a part-time substance use counsellor.

"These residents are brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons and they are deserving of harm reduction and life saving necessities and prevention services.," she says.

"I think this is the time for compassion and this is the time for a better understanding," added Bennett.

"We all know there needs to be more treatment and access to treatment. Without harm reduction we are not going to get there."

More Penticton News