Health Canada announces additional funding for safer supply pilot projects

Backgrounder

March 2022

To help support the response to the overdose crisis, the Government of Canada has dedicated nearly $3.5M in funding from Heath Canada's Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) to extend four safer supply pilot projects in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. With this funding, these pilot projects will continue to provide prescribed medications as an alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply with the goal of saving lives, as well as helping to connect people who use drugs with other important health and social services.

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 safer supply services for those at risk of overdose in Canada

The Victoria Safer Alternatives for Emergency Response (SAFER) initiative
AVI Health and Community Services Society – Victoria, BC

More than $620,000 over 15 months has been provided to continue to deliver a safer supply program that is prescribing pharmaceutical-grade opioids to people most at risk of overdose. This includes both outreach and medication delivery and fixed site services. This project assists in connecting patients to primary care, mental health and addictions services, and social supports, including housing/income stabilization, education and employment. The funding announced today will support the expansion of outreach efforts and site operation hours, as well as additional peer training.

Overdose Response Expansion Project – Providing Cultural Safety and Safer Prescription Medicine Alternatives
Kilala Lelum Health Centre (Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative) – Vancouver, BC

More than $600,000 over 15 months is being provided to expand existing safer supply and Indigenous Elder-led cultural healing programs at the Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative health centre in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside. 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. The additional funding will support the expansion of wraparound services, such as physiotherapy and connecting clients with a chronic pain physician.

Safer Opioid Supply Program (SOS)
Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre – Toronto, Ontario

More than $330,000 over 12 months has been provided to continue to help people who are experiencing severe opioid use disorder access pharmaceutical-grade medications and offer a wide range of wraparound services such as social programming, case management, mental health supports, and trauma counselling. The project features a harm reduction drop-in program, offering supports, evidence-based information, supplies, food, and referrals to other service providers. The funding announced today will support the expansion of existing services and adding of 1-on-1, as well as group mental health, counselling.

Downtown East Collaborative Safer Opioid Supply
South Riverdale Community Health Centre – Toronto, Ontario

More than $2 million over 15 months has been provided to continue to help people with opioid use disorder who are at a greater risk of overdose and other harms related to the toxic illegal drug supply. They may also have experienced barriers accessing existing health and social services, especially during the COVID-19 outbreak. The organization is providing pharmaceutical-grade opioids and helping to connect people experiencing opioid use disorder to the broader system of primary and specialist care, addiction and mental health services, and other social supports. The funding announced today will support the expansion of existing services and establishment of a mobile outreach program in Toronto's East Side.

Other federally funded safer supply projects include:

  • Hope to Health” Providence Health Care Research Institute
    BC Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS – Vancouver, BC
  • Safer Opioid Supply Program (SOS)
    London InterCommunity Health Centre – London, ON
  • Safer Supply Ottawa
    Pathways to Recovery – Ottawa, ON
  • River Stone Recovery Centre – Fredericton, New Brunswick
  • The Safer Alternatives For Emergency Response (SAFER) Initiative Vancouver Coastal Health Authority – Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Tablet Injectable Opioid Agonist Treatment (TiOAT) in a Small Urban Community Vancouver Island Health Authority – Victoria, British Columbia
  • MySafe Project for Low Barrier Access to Oral Hydromorphone to Prevent Fatal Overdoses
    MySafe Society – Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Overcoming barriers to iOAT: An implementation evaluation of iOAT in an integrated health care facility for health service organizations across Canada
    Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation – Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Expanding Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) Services to Include Injectable Opioid Agonist Therapy (iOAT) for Safer Supply at The Works
    Toronto Public Health, The Works – Toronto, Ontario
  • MySafe Project for Low Barrier Access to Oral Hydromorphone to Prevent Fatal Overdoses
    MySafe Society – Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Overcoming barriers to iOAT: An implementation evaluation of iOAT in an integrated health care facility for health service organizations across Canada
    Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation – Vancouver, British Columbia
  • Expanding Opioid Agonist Therapy (OAT) Services to Include Injectable Opioid Agonist Therapy (iOAT) for Safer Supply at The Works
    Toronto Public Health, The Works – Toronto, Ontario
  • Safer Supply Program (SSP)
    Guelph Community Health Centre – Guelph, Ontario
  • It Takes A Village: Safer Opioid Supply Through Community
    K-W Working Centre for the Unemployed (aka The Working Centre) – Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario
  • Embedding a Safer Supply Program in a Small Urban Community
    Peterborough 360 Degree Nurse Practitioner-Led Clinic – Peterborough, Ontario
  • Community of Practice
    London InterCommunity Health Centre – London, Ontario

Further details about these projects can be found here.

Building an evidence base on safer supply programs in Canada

To help build the evidence base on safer supply programs, Health Canada commissioned an independent preliminary assessment of ten federally funded safer supply projects in Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick.

Results from the preliminary assessment show program participants reporting improvements in their health, wellbeing and quality of life. Staff reported a significant change in participants' substance use, including decreased overdoses and decreased use of street drugs. In addition to a reduction in overdoses, staff reported that participants experienced fewer health harms associated with their drug use. These early findings also highlight the importance of wraparound care, peer involvement and external partnerships for program success. Programs also shared challenges and barriers faced in providing safer supply services, including medication availability and drug formulary coverage. These early findings are a first step in the Government's commitment to developing the evidence base around safer supply.

Health Canada is also supporting an arms-length evaluation of eleven safer supply pilot projects funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. A research team from the Canadian Research Initiative in Substance Misuse is conducting a multi-year evaluation of these projects to further contribute to the evidence base around safer supply.

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