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Greer sees peer engagement as key to harm reduction
Reducing the risks of drug use is a life or death matter in British Columbia where 1,535 people died of illicit drug use in 2018. Alissa Greer knows that it will take harm reduction experts to solve the problem, and that those experts are people who use drugs themselves.
Greer recently joined the Simon Fraser University Department of Criminology as an instructor after earning a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies with a focus on population and public health at the University of British Columbia.
“SFU seems to be an institution which fosters radical ideas and does not inhibit its faculty from taking risks in order to promote real-world solutions to various social problems,” Greer says. “It was this radical edge that attracted me to SFU, along with the university’s commitment to community engagement which aligns with my research approach and interests.”
Greer’s doctoral research focused on work and pay equity among people who use drugs that are working in ‘peer engagement’ on the frontlines of the opioid crisis. Peer engagement is a social justice approach to decision-making around drug and harm reduction policies that lets people who use drugs share their knowledge and perspectives as equal partners with academics and policy makers.
Accepting her new position at SFU meant Greer had to turn down a Banting Postdoctoral Fellowship she received earlier this year for research on participatory policymaking with people who use drugs with Sydney, Australia’s Drug Policy Modeling Program.
Greer’s current research aims to gather the perspectives and experiences of those affected by inequitable or harmful structures and systems in society, including the criminal justice system. She is currently collaborating with the Canadian Institute for Substance Use Research on the Youth Experiences with Police Project (YEP), a SSHRC-funded study which examines police encounters from the perspective of youth who use drugs in Chilliwack, Prince George and Victoria. One of YEP’s goals is to find ways to develop more respectful and meaningful relationships between youth who use drugs and law enforcement.
Greer plans to add Vancouver to the YEP communities under research and to expand the sample to include police officers’ perspectives. She sees her funding prospects as favourable given the shift in how social ‘problems’ are framed and addressed in Canada, along with greater support for engaging with affected and marginalized communities.
In Fall 2019 Greer is teaching the course Criminological Perspectives on Social Problems. In the Spring 2020 she will teach Psychological Explanations of Criminal and Deviant Behavior. Greer expects to develop further courses and research on community-based approaches in criminology, including participatory research, advocacy, and policymaking.