Walk With Me: uncovering the human dimensions of the overdose crisis

March 26, 2021

About the panel

It has been almost 5 years since the overdose crisis was labeled a public health emergency by the B.C. Government. Since then, over 6,500 lives have been lost throughout the province. The introduction of Covid-19 as a second public health emergency has exacerbated the crisis, with 2020 marking the highest number of overdoses in the province’s history.

The Walk With Me arts-based community action & research project seeks to uncover the human dimensions of the overdose crisis as it has unfolded in the Comox Valley. Within and through it, a group of artist-researchers, front-line workers and people with lived and living experience have banded together in a spirit of solidarity, attempting to come to terms with the impact of the crisis on individuals and community groups through a practice of story sharing. The stories, conveyed through audio recordings, drawings and photographs, are made accessible through a ‘walking practice’, in which participants are guided through various ‘reflective spaces’ within Courtenay’s downtown core.

The stories and walks are now being translated into policy and systems-change initiatives (including reports, presentations, etc.) through which we aim to spur systems and policy change.

The project exists is part of a larger participatory action research project, Cultural Mapping the Overdose Crisis, developed by researchers in Comox Valley (Comox Valley Art Gallery) and Kamloops (Thompson Rivers University)–in partnership with AVI Health and Community Services and a network of community advisors. It has received funding from Vancouver Foundation, BC Arts Council and Island Health.



Date: March 26, 2021
Panel Time: 1:00 - 1:50pm PT


Online via Zoom
Note: This event is held via Zoom Webinar and will be recorded. A link to the Webinar will be distributed via email to registrants prior to the event.


Walk With Me has been developed by a team of people consisting of: Elder/Knowledge Keeper, researchers, outreach workers, artists and people with lived experience committed to facilitating change.

Elder / Traditional Knowledge Keeper Barb Whyte is a Pentlatch descendant and member of the K’ómoks First Nation.  Barb helps hold the stories gifted to the project in a good way; holding space in circles, encouraging deep listening, and providing smudging, therapeutic touch and food infused with love. Barb has been involved in the project since its beginning. She is a retired Nurse, and serves as the voice for vulnerable people in our community at the Primary Care Network.

Sharon Karsten, PhD, Project Coordinator, is a community-engaged researcher, cultural manager and change advocate. Sharon feels honoured to have sat with people over the past year and a half whose experience, wisdom and life stories have been generously gifted with intent to make change.  

Sam Franey is Director of Community Development. Sam's life’s goal is to use his lived knowledge and experience to help people struggling with mental health, addiction and homelessness.

Sophia Katsanikakis is Communications Coordinator. A commitment to finding justice for people whose lives have, like her own, been impacted by mental health issues and addiction drives her pursuit of change.

Patti Alvarado, Outreach Worker, has been an advocate for marginalized communities and individuals for the past 17 years and brings a history of supporting people in multiple ways who are at-risk of overdose. Patti brings a vital connection with the communities connected to Unbroken Chain, Indigenous Harm Reduction Program, with Indigenous Womens' Sharing Society, where she works as a Program Director.

Galen Rigter, Outreach Worker, has been involved in Walk With Me since the outset. His commitment to enabling community and social change around the overdose crisis is palpable, and has helped to fuel the vision of this project. Galen is also an outreach worker at AVI Health and Community Services, and holds strong connections with many of the project participants.

Holly Taylor, Outreach Worker is a fierce advocate for social change as related to the overdose crisis. Holly has worked as an outreach worker in the Comox Valley for many years through AVI Health and Community Services, and brings to the project a deep respect and commitment to the people whose stories are shared.

Nadine Bariteau, Creative Director, is an artist, activist and community change advocate. Nadine’s superpower is found in the intersections she creates between creative practice and social/community change.