A peer can be defined as a person with equal standing in a community who share a common lived experience1. Peers use their lived experience with substance use in their professional work.
Peers are the experts in their own experience and provide important perspectives and a reality check. Peer engagement uses a community based approach to decision making, as engaging the community in the process is far more likely to lead to effective and acceptable service delivery. However, in practice peers are often underutilized in the prevention of substance use related harms2 and peer engagement efforts involve sharing information only and therefore can be considered merely tokenism.
Peer engagement can address equity of harm reduction services and interventions by fostering communication, building trust, increasing knowledge, and reducing stigma and discrimination to remove barriers and increase utilization of services.
Engaging people with drug use experience in policy development, research, programming, and practice is necessary to ensure interventions and harm reduction services are relevant and acceptable.
- Ti L,Tzemis D, Buxton JA. Peer engagement in the context of policy and program development: A review of the literature Substance Abuse Treatment, Prevention, and Policy (2012) 7:47 http://www.substanceabusepolicy.com/content/7/1/47
- Marshall Z, Dechman MK, Minichiello Alcock AL, Harris GE, “Peering into the literature: A systematic review of the roles of people who inject drugs in harm reduction initiatives,” Drug Alcohol Depend 151 (0), pp. 1–14, 2015
Compassion, Inclusion & Engagement (CIE)
The Compassion, Inclusion and Engagement initiative (CIE) is a provincial collaboration between FNHA and BCCDC that works closely with regional Health Authorities to support innovative local improvements in harm reduction service. CIE facilitates community based dialogues across BC that provide opportunities to build capacity and develop networks across and within health services and community agencies to foster and promote accessible, inclusive and culturally safe harm reduction services through ongoing peer engagement.
CIE recognizes that some people experience multiple barriers when accessing services such as racism, poverty, and concurrent mental health and substance use issues and is working to address these by supporting equitable and culturally safe processes and practices. With leadership support, engaging people who use harm reduction services and their network of peers in service design, delivery and evaluation has been identified as an effective strategy to address stigma and discrimination by building respectful relationships and shared understanding. Through the engagement process, CIE has learned that harm reduction services built on trust, respect, understanding and acceptance provide a safe and welcoming environment where people who use drugs are accessing harm reduction supplies and services most often.
 Learning from each other: Enhancing community-based harm reduction programs and practices in Canada. Canadian AIDS Society and the Canadian Harm Reduction Network. 2008. Available at http://www.canadianharmreduction.com/sites/default/files/final_report_en.pdf
Peer Engagement and Evaluation Project (PEEP)
The Peer Engagement and Evaluation Project (PEEP) is an innovative initiative to ensure everyone across the province has access to harm reduction services.