Prairie Harm Reduction chops 6 hours of evening support in funding crisis

Click to play video: 'Prairie Harm Reduction forced to cut 6 hours of support'
Prairie Harm Reduction forced to cut 6 hours of support
On Tuesday, Prairie Harm Reduction executive director Kayla DeMong said, "I really feel like this is the government's responsibility to step in and provide more funding to this community. More treatment beds right now is not the solution -- we need to keep people alive." – Apr 2, 2024

As of May 1, Prairie Harm Reduction will be cutting its evening hours back by six hours due to a lack of funding.

For the last several years, the safe-consumption site and drop-in centre has been open every day 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

“We are the only location open in the evening for people in this community. We are also the only public washroom.”

Next month, the facility won’t be operating later than 4 p.m.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan needs to focus on ‘keeping people alive’: clinic executive director'
Saskatchewan needs to focus on ‘keeping people alive’: clinic executive director

Prairie Harm Reduction executive director Kayla DeMong said staff has seen demand skyrocket, with roughly 200 more individuals accessing services, requiring more staff on site.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s well known that our safe consumption site is not properly funded and that we rely on donations,” DeMong said.

She said the facility has only about $65,000 dedicated to operating the drop-in site this year — $335,000 shy of what is needed for the demand in 2024.

The latest health and medical news emailed to you every Sunday.

“There will be nobody there to provide support to those overdosing outside the building.”

DeMong said that Saskatoon is seeing a steady increase of overdoses during the evening hours and Prairie Harm Reduction staff attend to multiple scenes outside the building at night when the doors are closed.

“Nobody is going to be there and that is a scary thing to try and come to terms with,” DeMong said.

With hundreds of additional individuals requiring the facility’s services, she said her just staff can’t keep up.

Click to play video: 'More resources needed to deal with addictions: Prairie Harm Reduction'
More resources needed to deal with addictions: Prairie Harm Reduction

The space was originally built in anticipation of sheltering around 30 individuals, but DeMong said there are upwards of 70 to 80 people in the drop-in centre at any given time using the beds, drinking coffee and eating some of the food that the centre provides.

Story continues below advertisement

“Our day staff need more capacity and more support to deal with the volume of people and for evening staff, we are looking at six or seven full-time positions to manage what we are dealing with,” she said.

According to Prairie Harm Reduction, the drop-in centre has never been funded by dollars from the provincial budget.

The provincial government told Global News in an email statement that the Ministry of Health and Social Services provided “combined funding of over $2.2 million for Prairie Harm Reduction to deliver outreach and peer support programming, an intensive in-home support program for at-risk families, and a supportive living program for at-risk individuals in Saskatoon.”

It also noted that the government does not fund “drug consumption sites.”

“It is absolutely shocking that our province has made decisions without considering our people that are living on our streets,” DeMong said. “We know the numbers are growing. We know about the lack of housing. We know about the lack of financial support and year after year we are seeing less and less money being put into this community.”

She said she feels it is the government’s responsibility to step in and make things better.

The government statement said its focus is on helping people overcome addictions and live healthy lives in recovery. It pointed to the 500 addictions treatment spaces added to double to the capacity for treatment under the Action Plan for Mental Health and Addictions.

Story continues below advertisement

“Creating more treatment beds right now is not the solution,” DeMong said. “We need to keep people alive.”

Prairie Harm Reduction will continue to look for money through fundraising and reaching out for donations.

Sponsored content