Backgrounder: New measures to address the opioid crisis and emerging drug threats               


July 2019

The opioid crisis continues to be one of the most serious public health issues in Canada’s recent history. While urgent efforts to respond to the opioid crisis continue, methamphetamine use has also emerged as a serious public health issue increasingly affecting Canadians, notably in the Prairie provinces. The Government of Canada is investing up to $76.2 million to take immediate and targeted action to scale up key lifesaving measures, mitigate the impacts of the illegal drug supply, and address the increasing use of methamphetamines. This investment includes approximately $50 million for initiatives through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) call for proposals and approximately $3.5 million through the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Pathways to Care call for proposals, both of which launched July 17.

This funding builds on the Budget 2019 commitment of $30.5 million over five years, with $1 million ongoing, to expand access to safer alternatives to the illegal drug supply and support better access to opioid overdose response training and naloxone in underserved communities.

Together, these investments total more than $100 million to address the opioid crisis and emerging drug threats in Canada.

Scaling up key lifesaving measures – $41.8 million

To help communities affected by the overdose crisis, the Government of Canada is expanding access to key life-saving measures. It will:

  •  Invest in harm reduction, community-led and front-line initiatives, programs and services through SUAP that meet the needs of underserved communities in responding to local problematic substance use issues. This includes $19.2 million in new funding to support new or expanded access to harm reduction services, as well as opioid agonist treatment in underserved communities, and linking people to health and social services.
  •  Increase the number of life-saving naloxone kits and opioid overdose response training sessions in underserved communities, such as smaller cities, rural and remote regions, so that more Canadians will be prepared to respond if they witness an opioid overdose. The $22.6 million in funding for this initiative is provided through new funding and the Budget 2019 investment.

Mitigating the impacts of the illegal drug supply– $33.6 million and $1.0 million ongoing

Providing access to safer drug alternatives to the contaminated illegal drug supply, while connecting people to treatment and other health and social services, is critical to addressing the opioid crisis and saving lives. The Government of Canada will invest $25.5 million in new funding for projects that increase access to pharmaceutical-grade medications as a safer alternative to the contaminated illegal drug supply in Canada. These pilot projects, funded through SUAP, will also develop valuable evidence and support the development of best practices.

Budget 2019 also committed $8.1 million for this work to expand access to a safe supply of prescription opioids to help protect people with problematic opioid use from overdose and death.

As part of this, the Government will increase federal capacity to analyze drug samples.

Addressing emerging drug threats and methamphetamines - $31.3 million new funding

The Government of Canada is supporting targeted efforts to quickly gather, disseminate and act on evidence related to effective treatments to address emerging drug threats, such as methamphetamine use. These include:

  • Projects funded through SUAP that will pilot new approaches to address problematic methamphetamine use, build knowledge of effective interventions and improve access to services.
  • An early warning system and expanded data collection system to allow early detection and intervention on emerging drug threats, such as methamphetamines.
  • Projects funded through the Public Health Agency of Canada Pathways to Care that use evidence-based approaches to reduce barriers to care for people who drugs, such as stigma and health and social inequities.
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