Government of Canada announces $16.5 million to support harm reduction and people who use substances in British Columbia

News release

These initiatives will address and prevent harms related to substance use

April 9, 2021                      Ottawa, Ontario                     Health Canada

Throughout Canada, communities and families continue to grapple with the ongoing overdose crisis and other harms associated with problematic substance use. Unfortunately, it has been nearly five years since British Columbia declared a public health emergency under their Public Health Act in response to increasing overdoses and overdose deaths in the province.

Sadly, the COVID-19 pandemic has made getting help harder for those who use substances. The latest evidence shows health outcomes for people who use drugs have worsened during COVID-19, as several jurisdictions—including British Columbia—have reported increases in substance use-related harms over the course of last year.

We remain committed to a comprehensive, evidence-based, and compassionate approach in supporting varied interventions to help people who use substances. Today, Ken Hardie, M.P., on behalf of the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced nearly $16.5 million in funding for 11 projects to help support communities in British Columbia in their efforts to address and prevent substance use-related harms.

These projects will reach several key groups in British Columbia, including Indigenous peoples, youth, post-secondary students, individuals in the correctional system, and healthcare professionals. Initiatives will improve harm reduction efforts through overdose prevention education, expanded access to Suboxone (an opioid agonist treatment), fostering mentorship, coaching and peer networks, and reducing stigma in the healthcare system.

The Government of Canada works in collaboration with various stakeholders to address the unique needs of the people they serve, help prevent harms related to substance use and, ultimately, improve the health and safety of our communities.


“Every life lost to an overdose is an empty seat in a classroom, at work or at the dinner table. I thank these organizations for their dedication to improving and protecting the health and safety of people in their communities. We know that addiction is a health issue. These organizations are doing important work to provide those experiencing problematic substance use with the support they need, which is saving lives.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Canada’s Minister of Health

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it harder for those that use substances to access the supports they need to stay safe, especially with an increasingly toxic domestic drug supply.  We need a concerted, strategic effort to promote harm reduction and save lives, which is why the federal government has made this partnership with BC and community organizations providing services a priority.”

Ken Hardie
Member of Parliament

“Stigma continues to drive people to use alone, and the pandemic is pushing people further into isolation. The illicit drug supply is dramatically more toxic and, tragically, more lethal. We know people are hurting now and we must do more to stop the terrible surge in overdose deaths. Addressing mental health and addictions is a priority of the BC government and this investment will allow B.C. to continue building the culturally safe, evidence-based system of mental health and addictions care that people deserve.”

The Honourable Sheila Malcolmson
British Columbia’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions

Understanding, treating and reducing harm related to substance use requires integrating multiple strategies across the health system. Through four projects funded by the Government of Canada, our work ranges from co-developing e-interventions with university students and developing standards of care for overdose treatment, to generating data to inform policy and prevent harms from drug-impaired driving. These programs benefit Canadians by reducing harms related to substance use, increasing awareness, providing safe, accessible health care and treatment options, and improving mental health.”

Daniel Vigo, MD, Lic Psych, DrPH
Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry and School of Population and Public Health, University of British Columbia

Jessica Moe, MD, FRCPC, DABEM, MA, MSc Clinical Epidemiology 
Assistant Professor, Department of Emergency MedicineUniversity of British Columbia

Jeff Brubacher, MD, MSc 
Associate Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, University of British Columbia

Colleen Varcoe, RN, PhD, FCAHS, FCAN  
Professor, School of NursingUniversity of British Columbia

“Through the funding and support we’ve received, BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services (BCMHSUS) and the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) are partnering to develop procedures to guide how testing and care for Sexually Transmitted and Blood-Borne Infections is provided for individuals who have lived and living experience of incarceration in BC Provincial Correctional Centres.  This will help us provide person-centred and trauma informed care for these infections, which disproportionately affect people who use drugs.”

Nancy Desrosiers, RN, EMBA
Provincial Executive Director (Correctional Health Services and Forensic Regional Clinic), BC Mental Health and Substance Use Services

“Chee Skookum Tum-Tum Mamuk (“new strong heart work”) is an Indigenous community-based initiative. With the funding and support of the Substance Use and Addictions Program, Chee-Skookum Tum Tum works in deep relationship with Indigenous communities in British Columbia to support mental wellness and reduce substance use in ways defined by them. This initiative enables the sharing of knowledge, tools and skills development, along with appropriate resources and training curricula, and provides opportunities to promote culture as a prevention and healing intervention. This project uses a train-the-trainer model program with 5+ First Nations communities that draws upon, learn from and lifts-up the knowledge holders/keepers in community through Western and traditional ways.”

Jessica Chenery
Team Lead (Chee Mamuk), BC Centre for Disease Control

“Foundry and Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario share a vision that all young Canadians have access to youth-centred, evidence-based and integrated substance use services where and when they need them. This project has allowed our two initiatives to come together to build this kind of service model with young people through the co-creation of youth-specific substance use training and curricula for service providers, including youth peer support workers, working across our networks. We have seen the strong impact that meaningful youth engagement has on service experiences and outcomes, and are confident that this project will positively impact young people who use substances in British Columbia, Ontario and across Canada. We recognize the need for youth-centred services is more urgent than ever in the context of two intersecting public health crises and thank Health Canada for this timely investment.”

Steve Mathias
Executive Director, Foundry BC

Dr. Joanna Henderson
Senior Scientist, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health
Executive Director, Youth Wellness Hubs Ontario

Quick Facts

  • On April 14, 2016, Dr. Perry Kendall, Provincial Medical Health Officer declared a public health emergency under the Public Health Act in response to increasing overdoses and overdose deaths in the province of British Columbia.
  • Most Canadians will use some kind of substance in their lifetime for different reasons, such as a means of coping with trauma and/or other pain. Problematic substance use occurs when someone uses drugs or alcohol in a harmful way that has negative effects on their health and life. It can lead to addiction and/or overdose.
  • It is estimated that approximately one in five Canadians aged 15 years and older experiences an addiction (also known as substance use disorder) in their lifetime. It is a treatable medical condition.
  • Funding for these projects is provided through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) and the Public Health Agency of Canada’s Supporting Pathways to Care for People Who Use Drugs (PtC).
  • As part of the Fall Economic Statement 2020, the Government of Canada committed to help Canadians struggling with problematic substance use by providing an additional $66 million over two years. This new funding will support community-based organizations responding to substance use issues, including to help them provide frontline services during COVID-19.

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Cole Davidson
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

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