The federal government has announced it will be spending more than $15 million in federal funding for four safer supply projects in Victoria and Vancouver.
The funding, announced on Monday, is aimed at providing pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to the toxic illegal supply in circulation.
The government says that the four safer supply projects will help people with opioid use disorder with a safer, medical alternative from a licensed prescriber. The projects will also put an emphasis on helping opioid users connect with health and social services, including treatment, which may be more difficult to access during the COVID-19 outbreak.
“The pandemic has magnified the effects of an already devastating overdose crisis across Canada. In B.C., we’ve been expanding services as well as advocating for additional federal resources and I’m pleased that Health Canada is working with us to help separate more people from the toxic drug supply,” said Sheila Malcolmson, B.C.’s Minister of Mental Health and Addictions. “I’m grateful to the frontline organizations whose critical work is so vital to B.C.’s overdose response and the people they serve.”
Health officials saw a spike in overdose deaths in B.C. over the course of 2020 as the COVID-19 outbreak created a number of heightened risks for people who use drugs, including an increasingly toxic illegal supply.
“We must do more to address the devastating consequences that the toxic illegal drug supply is having on many parts of Canada. Working with these organizations and the Province of British Columbia, the support we are providing to these life-saving initiatives is another way we are helping people from Vancouver and Victoria, who are at risk of overdose, stay safe and find access to care and treatment for substance use disorder,” said Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health.
In Victoria, the safer supply project will be executed by AVI Health and Community Services.
“Providing pharmaceutical alternatives to the highly toxic and deadly drug supply in Victoria, a city that consistently ranks one of the highest in British Columbia for overdose deaths, is an important action. Our project will benefit from the skills and leadership of people with lived/living experience and the support of nurses, system navigators and physicians to save and improve the lives of people in our community we care about,” said Katrina Jensen, executive of AVI Health.
The government adds that early findings from Canadian evidence show that using pharmaceutical-grade medications, such as hydromorphone, as an alternative to highly toxic street drugs for people at risk of overdose can help save lives and improve health outcomes.
The four safer supply projects were funded through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program.