The Government of Canada announces additional funding to four safer supply pilot projects

News release

These investments will help respond to the toxic illegal drug supply and prevent overdose in Ontario and British Columbia

March 17, 2022       |     Toronto, ON       |      Health Canada

The evidence is clear that the COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to a worsening of the overdose crisis, which continues to affect individuals, families and communities across Canada every single day. The pandemic has exacerbated the illegal drug supply in Canada, which is causing high rates of overdoses and deaths.

Since the onset of the opioid crisis and throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Canada has invested more than $700 million to implement a wide range of measures to help save lives and meet the needs of people who use drugs.

Today, as part of its response to the toxic illegal drug supply, the Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, along with the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced nearly $3.5M in funding from Health Canada's Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) to extend four safer supply pilot projects in Toronto, Vancouver and Victoria. With this additional funding, these pilot projects will continue to provide prescribed medications as an alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply as well as offer services that can help prevent overdoses and save lives.

Health Canada began funding safer supply pilot projects in 2020, which use prescribed medications as an alternative to the toxic illegal drug supply to help reduce the risk of overdose. They can also connect people who use drugs to other health and social services.

To date, the Government of Canada has committed more than $60 million in funding for safer supply projects to help save lives.

Health Canada has also commissioned an independent preliminary assessment of ten federally funded safer supply projects in Ontario, British Columbia and New Brunswick. This research is an important milestone in building the evidence base on the impact of safer supply programs on individuals who use drugs and the communities where they live.

The Government of Canada continues to work with all orders of government, partners, stakeholders, Indigenous Peoples, and people with lived and living experience of substance use, and organizations in communities across the country to ensure people who use drugs have the support they need. 

Quotes

“The opioid crisis is an epidemic affecting our communities right across the country, and it has only worsened since the COVID-19 pandemic began. Far too many Canadians are – or know someone who is – struggling with substance use. Today, our government is providing more support through additional safer supply pilot projects to help prevent overdoses and save lives.”

The Right Honourable Justin Trudeau
Prime Minister of Canada

“Our government is continuously learning from experts, people with lived and living experience all across Canada. There is a consensus that there is no one solution to address the overdose crisis. Safer supply pilot projects are one of many important tools we have to save lives. We are grateful for all the community-based organizations working every day to reduce the harms associated with substance use and providing people with the culturally appropriate and trauma-informed support they need.”

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

“Our project continues to be guided by calls from people who use drugs to expand access and provide the right drugs, in the right doses, and that best match routes of consumption. SUAP's support has enabled SAFER to quickly adapt, to try new options, and to share how a safe supply can be provided to save lives and engage people in the quality care they deserve.”

Katrina Jensen
Executive Director, AVI Health and Community Services, Victoria, BC

 “The Safer Opioid Supply program changes the entire paradigm around providing meaningful client-centred health care, not only has it provided an opportunity at life-saving, responsive and dignified care to individuals who use drugs, it also raises the bar for health care standards overall. The toxic drug supply crisis is only accelerating and expanding SOS programs across the country, and will continue to reduce death and other adverse health impacts.”

Angela Robertson
Executive Director, Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, Toronto, ON 

 “Safer Opioid Supply (SOS) programs are now an established, evidence-based approach, part of a continuum of options for people who use opiates and opioids. Through these programs, people using toxic opioid supply have access to pharmaceutical-grade opioids, as well as increased access to and engagement with healthcare and social services. People who use such programs report improvement in their wellbeing, including improved quality of life, increased stability, decreased criminalization and stigmatization, better health, fewer overdose events, reduced emergency hospital visits and greater social inclusion. The funding from Health Canada to enhance and expand 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, Toronto, ON

"The impacts of this Public Health Emergency/Crisis are profound and disproportionately impact Indigenous Peoples. The toxic illicit drug supply is the proximal cause for this epidemic of overdose deaths, however, the disproportionate impact on Indigenous people directly relates to historic and ongoing colonial practices and systems. The SUAP Health Canada Contribution Funding for the Kilala Lelum Health Centre has enabled a transformative expansion of the culturally safe primary care that includes injectable and oral Opiate Agonist Therapy, a prescription-based model to access “safe supply”, and partnered access to Indigenous Elders and cultural programs. SUAP expansion funding will also enable people living with Opiate Use Disorder and chronic pain to access a culturally safe non-pharmaceutical chronic pain management program. These programs offer the promise of saving lives and promoting health equity for those connected to Kilala Lelum. A broader, population wide, system transformation is most urgently required.”

Dr. David Tu
Primary Care Co-Lead, and Board Member of the Kilala Lelum Health Centre (Urban Indigenous Health and Healing Cooperative), Vancouver, BC
Clinical Assistant Professor, University of British Columbia, Faculty of Medicine

Quick facts

  • Safer supply services have been identified as a promising care option to help support people who use drugs, prevent overdoses and save lives, and provide connections to other health and social services.

  • To further help people dealing with substance use and tackle the ongoing overdose crisis, the Government announced in Budget 2021 an additional $116 million for the Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP)

  • SUAP is also funding a National Safer Supply Community of Practice, which facilitates the sharing of resources and best practices for safer supply amongst safer supply practitioners and other experts in substance use. 

  • Expanding access to safer supply is one way Health Canada is helping to save lives and improve health outcomes. The Government of Canada also continues to support critical harm reduction, treatment, housing and other services for people who use drugs or who are in recovery. 

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Contacts

Maja Staka
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health
613-957-0200

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

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

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