We are a multidisciplinary and collaborative group consisting of researchers, people with lived and living experience (PWLLE), family members of PWLLE, community-based organization leadership, medical health professionals, students and more. With decades of combined experience in substance use and addictions, harm reduction and research, we are committed to community-based research that incorporates multiple perspectives as a means to ultimately improve health and wellbeing outcomes for those impacted by substance use and addictions.
PWLLE Family Advisor
Marie Agioritis is from Saskatoon. She joins the research team as one of the lived experience patient partners. Two of Marie’s children began using Oxycontin recreationally in high school. The youngest of them lost his life to a fentanyl poisoning soon after graduation, and the other is in recovery after a lengthy battle. She is one of the original 16 members of the national organization Moms Stop the Harm, and is the provincial leader for Saskatchewan. Marie brings experience in navigating addictions health care in Saskatchewan and advocating for policy change at provincial and federal leadership levels.
Brandi Abele is a person who has used drugs, a trained substance use counsellor and a current member of the board of directors for Canadian Association of People who Use/d Drugs (CAPUD). Brandi has consulted and participated in research for a number of organizations including the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), Canadian Institute of Health Research (CIHR), the Public Health Agency of Canada, and the University of Saskatchewan. At the Stimulus conference in 2018, Brandi co-presented on the subject of integrating the voices of lived and living experience into pedagogy and post-secondary education. She is also a co-investigator on a recently completed study by the CRISM Lived Experience Working Group and is co-author of an editorial published by Huffington Post about funding, Indigenous communities and the overdose crisis. Brandi lived for four years in La Loche, Saskatchewan, and considers it a great honour to have been allowed to become immersed in Dene culture. Brandi trained as an Addiction Counsellor at SIIT in Saskatoon, and received her diploma, with distinction in 2013. She is currently on a leave of absence from La Loche, while completing her BA. Brandi is also the proud mother of a child on the autism spectrum, a dog lover and an artist.
Jo-Ann Saddleback developed manuals and facilitated workshops on various issues for train-the-trainers peer education for Health professions and community people. She also delivered a series of workshops on Health, Culture and building safe & trusting environments to many correctional institutions (remand, provincial and federal), where she worked closely with incarcerated street gang members including those in maximum security and protective custody sex offenders. She sat on the Advisory Board of the Edmonton Institution for Women; wrote a successful proposal and developed the workshop – TALK – to train Solicitor General Staff; and developed interactive and energetic youth workshops for the Edmonton and Calgary Young Offenders’ Centres.
For 10 years, during the 1990’s, Jo-Ann Saddleback traveled to every First Nations and Metis community in Alberta, several times, and many across Canada delivering 4 and 5-day workshops on Health, advocacy, community organization and Culture. She was involved in research, program development, report writing, budget and agenda development, administration, proposal writing, promotions, communications and evaluation processes for several non-profit groups including Feather of Hope Aboriginal AIDS Prevention Society. Her work with Elders from across North America resulted in the Cultural components included in her workshops. Old People told her that, “no matter what the issue is, if you are talking about Native people, then you are talking about Culture”. Jo-Ann believes in Indigenous healing and its processes to find and maintain good Health: mind, body, emotions and spirit.
Mrs. Saddleback sat on some 36 different committees, boards and task forces over her career covering every important issue of the Native community: FASD, Health, Addictions and Recovery, children involved in prostitution, housing, social justice, youth development, education, media, healthy relationships and environments, cultural traditions, communications, First Nations self-governance, crime prevention, economic development and land use, building safe environments, Language and justice.
Jo-Ann Saddleback worked the frontlines and administration in AIDS and Hep C for a decade. The majority of infections were caused by needle sharing. She was allied with Safeworks and advocated Harm Reductions policies and approaches. She managed suicide crisis intervention and helped to support substance users towards health and healing.
Ms. Saddleback worked with the elders of 4 bands of Maskwacîs on a forum to discuss Cultural approaches to substance misuse. She and her husband offer ceremonies towards healing and have often used cultural approaches for people detoxing from drug use.
Jo-Ann sits on the working committee of Thunderbird Partnerships, a National Indigenous research organization on Substance Misuse. She has presented at CRISM Node conferences and sits as Elder for CRISM. Jo-Ann is also currently Elder-in-Residence for Edmonton Public Library.
Dr. Barbara Fornssler
Photo credit: Maki Fotos
Barb Fornssler PhD is an adjunct faculty member in the School of Public Health and is the Knowledge Translation and Exchange Coordinator for the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM) Prairie Node. Dr. Fornssler has been working in substance use research since 2011 and teaches the course ‘Studies in Addictions’ yearly for both the School of Public Health and Department of Sociology. When she’s not in the classroom, Barb enjoys camping adventures alongside her partner and their dog, a three year-old Great Dane named Opal.
Dr. Lori Hanson
Lori Hanson, Associate Professor in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology at the University of Saskatchewan, primarily works on issues related to upstream social determinants of health, political economy of health and social movements for health. All of her work is guided by an ethic of social solidarity and appreciation for diverse communities and their knowledges as well as an action orientation. As an activist scholar, Lori’s research is primarily qualitative, participatory and community-based.
Dr. Peter Butt
Health Care Provider
Peter Butt is a graduate of McMaster University and a Certificant and Fellow with the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), with Special Competency in Addiction Medicine. He is an Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan and serves as a consultant in Addiction Medicine in the Saskatchewan Health Authority. His research and publications have focused on guidelines such as the Canadian Alcohol Low Risk Drinking Guidelines, Guidelines on Alcohol Use Disorder in Older Adults, reviewing various guidelines for the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse (CRISM), and contributing to the development of Opioid Agonist Therapy standards and guidelines for the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan. He was the physician lead on the CFPC Alcohol Screening, Brief Intervention and Referral project, and contributed to the development of the criteria for Certification in Addiction Medicine. Provincially, Peter was the physician lead on the Saskatchewan Take Home Naloxone project and he serves on the provincial opioid and methamphetamine task forces. Indigenous health has been an important part of Peter’s career. His wife and children are members of the Saddle Lake Cree First Nation, and he served as Director of Northern Medical Services for 14 years, coordinating medical care to Indigenous communities on and off reserve.
Jason Mercredi is the Executive Director of Prairie Harm Reduction (formerly AIDS Saskatoon) and has been with the agency since 2013. He is co-founder of Canada’s National HIV Testing Day, wrote the policy for drug-smoking pipes to be introduced into Saskatchewan needle exchanges, successfully advocated for the expansion of take-home naloxone in Saskatchewan and is currently establishing the province’s first safe consumption site. He is of Denesuline, Métis and Scottish ancestry, and was born and raised on Treaty 6 Territory and the Homeland of the Métis.
Maryellen Gibson holds a Master of Public Health from the University of Saskatchewan and her work focuses on substance use, harm reduction and knowledge translation. Currently, Maryellen is a research manager in the Department of Sociology at the University of Saskatchewan supporting a project with veterans of PTSD and who problematically use substances. Outside of work, Maryellen volunteers as the co-chair of the board of directors for Saskatoon Sexual Health, paints and travels.
Lindsey Vold is a registered nurse completing her PhD in the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan. Her clinical practice is in reproductive rights, public health and outreach and primary health care. Her research interests include public health and reducing health inequities, climate change and systems thinking. Lindsey loves cats and enjoys playing team sports and riding her bike.
Project Lead – Cohort B
James Dixon is a PhD candidate in the Department of Community Health and Epidemiology, College of Medicine at the University of Saskatchewan. His doctoral research is focused on the economic context of the opioid overdose crisis in Western Canada. James started in the field of substance use in 2012, working at a community-based nonprofit harm reduction agency until 2015 when he started his graduate studies. James enjoys yoga and meditation, film, music, and the beach.
Project Lead – Cohort A
Maggie Coupland is a Master of Public Health student at the University of Saskatchewan. She has worked in front-line positions in different emergency shelters and supported living programs in Ottawa, Halifax and Saskatoon. She is a passionate advocate for individuals experiencing barriers in accessing healthcare. Maggie’s research interests include health promotion, harm reduction services and health policy. In her spare time, you can find her watching Jeopardy or doing puzzles in her living room.
Graduate Research Assistant
Project Lead – Cohort C
Natasha Istifo is a graduate student at the University of Saskatchewan who is studying in the Masters of Public Health Program. She has completed her Bachelor of Arts and Science degree in Health Studies with a minor in Sociology. Natasha has a passion for public health, health advocacy/promotion and epidemiology. Hoping for a future career in population health promotion, Natasha is excited to be a part of the P5 Project Research Team and to continue her journey in this field. In her free time, Natasha loves to travel to new countries, go to the lake and spend time with her family.
Graduate Research Assistant
Kacie Kushniruk is a Master of Public Health student at the University of Saskatchewan. She completed a B.Sc. Honours in Physiology and Pharmacology in 2016 and a B. Comm in Marketing & Communications in 2018. Kacie is an active volunteer with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and has worked as an Emergency Room Ambassador, Vaccination Clinic Facilitator, and Paediatric Companion at Jim Pattison Children’s Hospital. As a Licentiate with the Canadian Dance Teacher’s Association, most of her experiences have been working with athletes and educators for incorporating physical activity in her community. Her research interests include mental health policy, harm reduction advocacy, and re-imagining health marketing & messaging for enhanced public health literacy. In her spare time, Kacie enjoys BarreRoom workouts, playing cards, and hanging out with family and friends.
Undergraduate Research Assistant
Mark Hammer is a fourth year University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student majoring in Sociology and working toward his certificate in Criminology and Addictions. Mark has lived experience with recovery and a passion for peer support. Mark loves to spend time with his partner of 30 years and his two dogs, Pan and Murphy.
Macala Harriman is a third year University of Saskatchewan undergraduate student majoring in Sociology and minoring in Crime, Law and Justice Studies. She is also currently working toward her certificate in Criminology and Addictions. Macala has always been passionate about working in the human services field, particularly in addictions, and she is excited to be part of the P5 research team. In her spare time, Macala likes to spend time with her puppy Norman, go for walks by the river, and binge-watch Netflix.
Alexa Thompson is an undergraduate student at the University of Saskatchewan and is currently completing her BA in Sociology. She previously completed a BA in Psychology at the University of Saskatchewan. The P5 Project is personal to Alexa, as she has had people in her life affected by substance use. In her free time, Alexa likes to do martial arts, photography and antique collecting.
10-Member Advisory Board of PWLLE
Profiles Coming Soon!