Backgrounder: Support for people at risk of overdose during COVID-19 and beyond in British Columbia
The Government of Canada continues to support communities across Canada as they respond to drug overdoses and harms during the COVID-19 outbreak and beyond. This includes over $15 million in funding for four community-based safer supply projects for people with opioid use disorder in British Columbia. These projects will provide pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to the toxic illegal supply.
Funding is provided through the Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP), which supports evidence-informed and innovative initiatives across a range of interventions—health promotion, prevention, harm reduction and treatment—targeting a broad range of legal and illegal substances.
Expanding access to a safer drug supply for those at risk in British Columbia
“Safer Alternative for Emergency Response (SAFER) Initiative,” Vancouver Coastal Health Authority – Vancouver, British Columbia
Approximately $5 million over four years is being provided to deliver a safer supply program that will prescribe pharmaceutical-grade opioids to people most at risk of overdose. This project will focus on those who have been diagnosed with an opioid use disorder and who have not been helped by traditional substance use services and treatments. The long-term project will also assist in connecting patients to primary care, mental health and addiction services, and social supports, including housing/income stabilization, education and employment. In addition, it will contribute valuable evidence to support the development of best practices for safer supply programs in Canada.
The three initiatives listed below are short-term initiatives specifically intended to respond immediately to the increased risks of the toxic illegal drug supply during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“Victoria Safer Alternatives for Emergency Response (SAFER) Initiative,” AVI Health and Community Services Society – Victoria, British Columbia
Approximately $4 million over three years is being provided to deliver a community-based, flexible safer supply model with health care provider oversight in order to address the increased risk of overdose posed by the toxic illegal drug supply during the COVID-19 outbreak. The project will help people who have not responded to other types of treatment, as well as those who have been difficult to reach and engage through traditional public health and addiction treatment measures.
“An Innovative Safe Supply Program to Support People with Severe Opioid Use Disorder,” Providence Health Care Research Institute – Vancouver, British Columbia
Approximately $3.6 million over three years is being provided to establish a safer supply program in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver for people at risk of overdose and death due to the increasingly toxic illegal drug supply during the outbreak. In partnership with the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS, the project will offer a personalized, low-barrier approach, with a variety of opioid medications available and extended operating hours. It will also help connect patients to primary care, peer support workers and social workers.
“Overdose Response Expansion Project – Providing Cultural Safety and Safer Prescription Medicine Alternatives,” Kilala Lelum Health Centre (Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative) – Vancouver, British Columbia
Approximately $2.8 million over three years is being provided to expand existing services at the Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative health centre in Vancouver’s Downtown Lower Eastside to include safer supply and Indigenous Elder-led cultural healing programs. The project will improve the health and wellbeing of Indigenous people living with opioid use disorder and reduce associated harms during the COVID-19 outbreak. It will also offer important information on how to better provide care to this segment of the population.
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