Government of Canada Highlights Support for Safer Drug Supply Projects in Ontario
Toronto, ON – Sept 18, 2020
The opioid overdose crisis continues to be one of the most serious public health crises in Canada’s recent history. Tragically, in many communities, the COVID-19 outbreak is worsening this crisis. The Government of Canada is taking action to ensure communities have the tools and support they need to keep people at risk of overdose safe during the outbreak.
Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, highlighted federal funding support of nearly $9.5 million for four safer supply projects for people at risk of overdose in Ontario. These projects will provide pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to the toxic illegal supply in circulation.
The four Ontario safer supply projects will provide people who have not responded to other forms of treatment for opioid use disorder with a safer medical alternative from a licensed prescriber. The initiatives will also connect them with important health and social services, including treatment, which may be more difficult to access during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Similarly, to help communities respond to increasing opioid overdose deaths and harms, Health Canada approved three short-term Urgent Public Health Need Sites. Also known as overdose prevention sites, two are currently operating in Ottawa and Toronto emergency COVID-19 response shelters, and one is operating in Kingston. These sites offer supervised consumption, harm reduction services, education and 24/7 on-call services for shelter residents. In addition, all provinces and territories have been authorized by Health Canada to establish Urgent Public Health Need Sites until September 30, 2021.
Substance use disorder is a health condition that can be managed and treated if people are provided with services and supports that best meet their needs. During the COVID-19 outbreak, people who use drugs are experiencing a number of increased risks, with several jurisdictions reporting higher rates of overdose, including fatal overdoses and other harms related to an increasingly toxic illegal supply. The Government of Canada is working in collaboration with all levels of government, partners, stakeholders, people with lived and living experience of drug use, and organizations in communities across the country to respond to the outbreak and the overdose crisis.