Government of Canada is investing nearly $7.5 million to support the health of people who use substances across Canada 

News release

13 projects will help increase access to peer support and build capacity for health and social service providers

July 16, 2021 | Ottawa, Ontario | Health Canada

The health and safety of Canadians will always remain as one of the federal government’s top priorities. Over the last several years, feedback from public consultations has revealed a gap in suitable and available supports and services for people who use substances. The COVID-19 pandemic has only worsened this gap by further reducing the availability of these critical services. Tragically, many jurisdictions across Canada have reported significant increases in overdose deaths and related harms since the onset of the pandemic.

Today, the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, announced nearly $7.5 million for 13 projects across Canada to increase the number of skilled health and social workers available to help people who use substances. They will provide training by and for peers and work to develop guidance and distribute resources on harm reduction and treatment for those working in the health field. Together, these projects will help ensure Canadians who use substances have access to appropriate, timely and effective care during the pandemic and beyond.

The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that all Canadians, including people who use substances, have the supports they need to live a healthier life. The federal government will continue to work with all levels of government, partners, stakeholders, people with lived and living experience, and organizations in communities across the country to provide support for people who use substances.


"Community organizations across the country are doing important work to help people who use substances reduce the harm they face and get the services they need for better health. These projects will give the right tools and training to the people and organizations that support people who use substances live healthier, safer lives."

The Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

"It is the people within our community that are the driving force for change and within each of us lies the power to do it. Our E-wiijkiwe'endijig Naadmaadwaad (Friends Helping Each Other) Initiative, involves the development and delivery of a community led Indigenous Peer Leadership Program centring on the core principles of Hope, Belonging, Meaning and Purpose. We must remember that our culture and language is the foundational piece in these wellness efforts and must remain at the core of all that we do."

Ogimaa Kwe Linda Debassige
M'Chigeeng First Nation

"Funding through the Substance Use and Addictions Program will allow APSS Opioid Overdose Prevention Program (AOOPP) to provide extensive and intensive harm reduction programs and services, naloxone training and distribution, supports including peer support for people who use substances to reduce the harms, barriers and associated stigma. Consistency in our harm reduction programming and services, partnering with the Community Engagement Unit of The Regina Police Service to promote positive interactions and reducing barriers that prevent calling 9-1-1 (in a recent survey 66% of people did not call 9-1-1 during an overdose.) are key harm reduction strategies to help people with substance use disorders."

Shiny Mary Varghese, Executive Director
AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan Inc. (APSS)

"The Canadian Association of People who Use Drugs (CAPUD) is pleased to receive funding from the Substance Use and Addictions Program as it will further contribute to our efforts of raising the voices of people who use(d) drugs throughout the policy-making process, through the initiative 'We Save Lives: Engaging and Empowering People who Use Drugs in Policymaking 2.0'. CAPUD firmly believes that our guiding principle "Nothing About Us Without Us" is achieved only through intentional, equitable, and just opportunities. This attribution is an important step on that path."

Natasha Touesnard, Executive Director

Quick facts

  • Problematic substance use is the use of any psychoactive substance in a manner, situation, amount, or frequency that is harmful to the individual or to society. 

  • 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.

  • Feedback from public consultation in 2018 on the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS) revealed a lack of suitable and available services for people who use substances. In 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 would support community-based organizations responding to substance use issues, including to help them provide frontline services during COVID-19. The projects announced today are funded through this investment.

  • To further help save lives, meet the needs of people who use substances and respond to the ongoing overdose crisis, the Government of Canada pledged in an additional $116 million Budget 2021 to support a range of innovative approaches to harm reduction, treatment, and prevention at the community level.

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Thierry Bélair
Office of the Honourable Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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