Government of Canada supports a safer drug supply project in Toronto
“It is devastating to see that the COVID-19 outbreak has worsened the situation for Canadians struggling with substance use disorders, including those living in Toronto. Each life lost is someone’s family member, friend or co-worker. The life-saving initiatives announced today are part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to help people at risk of overdose stay safe during the outbreak and find access to care and treatment for substance use disorder.”
The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
“We see safer supply as a necessary extension of the harm reduction work our Centre has been doing for decades. This support from the Federal government is the result of unrelenting advocacy by people who use drugs and harm reduction advocates and the political will of a government who is striving to listen to those most at the margins.”
Executive Director, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre
Health Canada has published a toolkit with guidance for healthcare practitioners on providing medication as a treatment for substance use disorder or as a pharmaceutical-grade alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply during the outbreak.
Early findings from Canadian evidence have found that using pharmaceutical-grade medications, such as hydromorphone, as an alternative to the highly toxic illegal drug supply for people at risk of overdose, can help save lives and improve health outcomes. It can also help establish an entry to primary care and treatment for people with substance use disorder.
This safer supply project is funded through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). SUAP provides financial support to provinces, territories, non-governmental organizations and key stakeholders for programs and initiatives that aim to prevent, treat and reduce harm of substance use issues.
In April 2020, Health Canada proactively issued six-month class exemptions under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act (CDSA) to all provinces and territories to establish new temporary Urgent Public Health Need Sites. These sites would be set up within existing supervised consumption sites, shelters or other temporary sites, as needed, to help people stay safe from overdoses and limit their contact with others by following physical distancing and isolation measures during the COVID-19 outbreak. In provinces that have not yet chosen to use the exemption, organizations, such as the Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, have applied directly to Health Canada for authorization to operate an Urgent Public Health Need Site.
On August 15, 2020, Health Canada launched a 60-day consultation process to seek comments from Canadians on supervised consumption sites and services to better understand the needs of communities across Canada during the opioid overdose crisis. Feedback received through the consultation will inform the development of proposed new regulations under the CDSA.
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
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