Mark is a member of the Human Rights Education Project team. He brings perspective from his work as a paramedic and as coordinator of a Community Action Team. Get to know Mark as part of the Meet the People at PAN series.
What first sparked your interest in the HIV or hepatitis C sector?
Working as a paramedic across BC, I have interacted with numerous people in a variety of health conditions. It is a privilege to come to the aid of someone in time of crisis and act as a health care advocate, and it’s apparent that not everyone has the same exchange and relationship with the health care system. As a collective, we strive to deliver the same service and support for all those in need, but we can see that many of our community members are slipping through the cracks. My education background in human geography played a role in shaping the way I view the health care field and the delivery of services across the province. Looking at the determinants of health and barriers for specific individuals, I began to search for different ways I could contribute within the health care system.
Recently I have been working as a Community Action Team (CAT) coordinator that focuses on reducing the impact of the opioid crisis on a community level. The role is very much integrated with public health and draws on the principles of harm reduction in response to the province’s greatest public health crisis to date. One cannot study harm reduction without understanding the journey and context from which it came. The field of harm reduction has an overwhelming amount to attribute to the lessons learned from the HIV and hepatitis C framework of study and the evolution they had with public health policy and structuring change.
How do you see the impact of your work in the “real world”?
I see the impact of our work as being more proactive and less reactive. As front-line service workers and health care providers, we often respond to the need of an individual in a time of crisis without having the opportunity to address the greater complexity that is creating an environment of growing need for service. In time of crisis we recognize that there is a need for change and that we have an opportunity to look for new and innovative ways to restructure our approach to a problem.
I see the benefit of the Community Action Teams (CATs) as decreasing the overall number of opioid poisonings, opioid overdose deaths, and the overall impact of this crisis on society as a whole. The Human Rights Education Project will be essential to supporting the work of numerous Community Action Teams across the province as they look to address deep-seated issues of stigma, discrimination, and human rights.
How do you engage the community in your work?
As part of the PAN team, I work on reaching out to Community Action Teams (CATs) across the province. As a CAT coordinator I interact with community based organizations (CBO’s) directly, and part time as primary care provider paramedic in my community.
If you had unlimited funds, which area of advocacy, research or programming would you invest in?
I would invest funds in better prevention services for substance use, early recognition and diagnosis of mental illness, and early treatment and recovery programs for individuals who are struggling with substance dependency issues. The ultimate goal would be to make meaningful change prior to a person becoming dependent on substances, entrenched in deep poverty, exposed to chronic illness and/or criminality.
If you were able to choose, what is the natural talent or superpower you’d like to be gifted with and why?
Captain Planet. Is that a cop-out? Sort of a… “for my one wish I will ask for more wishes”. Captain Planet had super human strength, power of flight, and Earth, Air, and Water control. At the end of the day, he just wanted to clean up Planet Earth. This is a noble goal – and it’s nice to know you can fly.