Government of Canada supports first of its kind safer supply project in Toronto

News release

Government also extends two existing safer supply projects in Toronto to continue saving lives

April 14, 2021 | Toronto, Ontario | Health Canada

The overdose crisis continues to affect communities and families across Canada. Tragically, we have seen significant increases in overdose deaths and related harms during the COVID-19 pandemic, including in Toronto where overdoses deaths increased significantly between January 1 and November 30 last year. The Government of Canada continues to support increasing access to safer supply projects in communities across Canada to help prevent drug overdoses during the pandemic and beyond.

Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, and John Tory, Mayor of Toronto, announced more than $7.7 million for three projects to increase access to safer supply and provide a new harm reduction and treatment option for people living with opioid use disorder in Toronto. These innovative projects will provide a pharmaceutical alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply and help prevent overdoses.

Through this funding, the Government of Canada is supporting Toronto Public Health to expand the medication options available for people with severe opioid use disorder in Toronto. Toronto Public Health’s project will be the first of its kind in Ontario to offer injectable hydromorphone for people with opioid use disorder who do not respond to currently available services and who remain at high risk of overdose. The Government of Canada is also providing additional funding to South Riverdale Community Health Centre and Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre to extend their safer supply projects for two more years and expand their resources offered. These initiatives will connect patients with essential health and social services, including treatment, which may be more difficult to access during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

The Government of Canada continues to work with all levels of government, partners, stakeholders, people who use drugs and people with lived and living experience and organizations in communities across the country to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and the overdose crisis.

Quotes

“The COVID-19 pandemic has made it even more difficult for people who use substances to get support. We have to do more to reach those most at risk. Together with the City of Toronto and community organizations, we can do better to ensure people can better access supports and treatment that will help alleviate suffering and save lives.”

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

“I want to thank Minister Hadju and the Government of Canada for coming forward with this life-saving and vital funding towards safer supply projects across the city. We have seen throughout the pandemic an increase in overdoses and the need for programs geared towards harm reduction and providing safer options. Public health officials have been clear that these safe supply programs are needed and will help save lives.”

John Tory
Mayor of City of Toronto

“We are very pleased to have the funding to operate this important program especially during this time of escalating overdose deaths in the City of Toronto and believe that it will save lives.  The impact of COVID during the opioid crisis has meant that people who use drugs are at higher risk of overdose death. The implementation of this program will not only save people's lives by reducing their reliance on the unregulated and dangerous drug supply, but will connect people to other needed supports such as case management, mental health and shelter and housing. The opioid overdose poisoning crisis has had a devastating impact on people who use drugs and we look forward to implementing a program that will save lives.”

Dr. Eileen De Villa
Medical Officer of Health for the City of Toronto

“Clients using the Safer Opioid Supply (SOS) program tell us, ‘a lot of people come within an inch of losing their lives everyday — but SOS saves lives and makes people better. That's how valuable this service is.’ This funding extension will enable us to continue saving lives and building a community of practice and partnerships to allow the program to become an integrated health care and harm reduction practice.” 

Angela Robertson, Executive Director
Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre

“The need for our programs have grown exponentially throughout the pandemic, a pandemic that has made the overdose crisis so much deadlier. The funding from Health Canada to sustain the SOS programs in Toronto is essential to preserving a continuum of harm reduction services that are saving lives as the opioid poisoning crisis continues to devastate communities of people who use drugs.”

Jason Altenberg, Chief Executive Officer
South Riverdale Community Health Centre

Quick facts

  • Through 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 funding is supporting community-based organizations responding to substance use issues, including helping them provide frontline services in a COVID-19 context. 

  • The new Toronto Public Health safer supply project and the two-year extensions for South Riverdale Community Health Centre and Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre’s safer supply projects are funded from this commitment.

  • Combined with previous Government of Canada commitments to date, the government has invested a total of $50 million to support safer supply projects in British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia to help save lives. This includes more than $21.8 million in Ontario.

  • On May 1, 2019, Health Canada approved the use of injectable hydromorphone by qualified healthcare professionals as a treatment for adults with severe opioid use disorder. Injectable hydromorphone has been shown to be an effective treatment option for people who are suffering from severe opioid use disorder and who have not responded to other therapies

  • Early findings from Canadian evidence show that using medications such as hydromorphone, as an alternative to highly toxic illegal drugs 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.

  • The projects announced today are funded through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program — a federal grants and contributions program that provides financial support to provinces, territories and non-governmental and Indigenous organizations to strengthen responses to drug and substance use issues in Canada.

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Contacts

 Cole Davidson
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health
613-957-0200

Media Relations
Health Canada
613-957-2983
hc.media.sc@canada.ca

Public Inquiries:
613-957-2991
1-866-225-0709

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