Lived Experience Advisory Panel

Lived Experience Advisory Panel (Shortened to ‘the PDS Panel’ or ‘the Panel’) (2017-2024)

Panel members: 12 local people who have diverse experiences with substance use and/or supporting a loved one who uses substances.

Panel established: 2017

Goal: The panel presented a platform where people with lived experience (PWLE) of substance use were paid to leverage their experiences to help shape local programs, policies, and initiatives. The panel offered organizations an invaluable opportunity to receive feedback on their activities and make necessary adaptations to more effectively serve to the needs of individuals who have navigated experiences with substance use.

parent and two children

Panel highlights:

1. The panelists provided comprehensive consultations to organizations, enhanced by training opportunities which built capacity for panel members.

2. The panel helped shape 13 unique project/policy/initiatives between July 2022 and July 2023.

3. Panelists were paid an hourly wage reflective of their expertise.

“Being seen, being heard, being valued. It is and has been life changing, lifesaving, and life affirming. The opposite of addiction is not sobriety – it is connection, respect, friendship, creativity, self-worth.” (Panelist, 2022)

Process: Local organizations presented their specific policies, programs, or initiatives to the panel, seeking valuable feedback from the panelists on how to enhance their effectiveness in meeting the needs of people who use drugs (PWUD). In particular, the group productively and respectfully discussed the strengths, room for improvement, and the specific and/or structural ways it could change to better services across our community.

Organizations were expected to report to the panel on how what they learned in the consultation impacted their work.

“You could not replicate the feedback shared by the panel. Being able to interact with the panel firsthand was extremely beneficial to my learning… the feedback shared by the group heavily influenced our work.” (Presenter, 2023)