Nelson Neighborhood Network, formerly known as the Nelson Concerned Community group, is pleased with the progress they’ve made so far, but says there’s still work to be done.
The group was formed in April by business owners who wanted to tackle concerns surrounding the toxic drug crisis. It started out with four people and today more than 400 community members have signed up.
Tanya Finley, mother, business owner and the chair of the Neighborhood Network, says originally when she and three others decided to form the collation it was to address concerns that surrounded Interior Health’s Friendship Clubhouse at 818 Vernon Street, a few buildings down from her business, Finley’s Bar & Grill.
“In April when we started this group when it was to do with the clubhouse. Interior Health was the management and was not what we expected from an Interior Health building. So we addressed those concerns with Interior Health, and they heard them loud and clear, and they moved into a different spot, making it much more feasible for people to get the mental health that they actually need.”
Finley says although she’s pleased with the impact her group has had so far, they still have lots of projects underway to help tackle the toxic drug crisis and ensure people affected by mental health and addictions have access to the resources they deserve.
“Many layers are happening in our community right now. It is not just the mental health and the addictions piece. Other parts are going on in our communities across the province. We’re addressing those with our governments locally, provincially and federally.”
She says the group is pushing for a regional approach as a solution to lighten the pressure on facilities in Nelson that offer mental health and addiction support and emphasized that they have reached out to high level officials on all ends of the political spectrums for help.
“We see that Nelson is doing their part as a good neighbor, and we want to see other communities do the same. We are monitoring what’s going on provincially and making sure that every city and every person has the opportunity to recover or manage their addiction.”
Being the face of the group has come with its own challenges both personally and professionally, according to Finley, who says she’s faced a lot of backlash from the community in the months since the group was formed.
She says her business has experienced boycotting and that her and her family have been victims of name calling and hate.
“Personally, I have taken quite a few bullets through this process, but what I have learned is when you are challenging something to make things better, there is going to be haters out there and you can’t worry about that.”
Despite these challenges, Finley says it will not stop her from advocating for people on both sides of the crisis, the addicts themselves and the public who experience the negative side effects of drug use and criminal activity.
She says no one is immune to developing a drug addiction but people need to be mindful that drugs are more lethal than ever before.
“It is scarier than it was back in the day and I think that someone needs to stand up. As a mother I keep thinking about the future for my sons Michael and Ben and saying, if they were in trouble, what would I want them to do? If this was their street, what do I want it to look like? I’m always going to champion for the better of our children and our community.”
Finley says she is happy to be a community advocate but urges everyone to step up and do their part.
“We also need to look at our own selves. If we know someone who’s dealing, we need to report it. These people are causing a huge problem, and they’re getting away with it, they’re making a lot of money and they’re killing people. That is a piece that needs to be talked about very loud and very clearly right now. It’s time to stand up and be brave. If you know something and you want to tell me, you can come and tell me because I can speak on your behalf. I will be your voice and be all our advocates.”