Debate over how best to address addictions issues, specifically methamphetamine and opioids, have been a running theme in Saskatchewan’s legislative assembly. Now, more resources are on the way from Ottawa – just over $5 million over the next five years.
The Saskatchewan government is the fifth province to sign onto the federal Emergency Treatment Fund.
The province said Tuesday the funding will complement the $7.4 million they have already invested into opioid substitution therapy.
Saskatchewan Health Minister Jim Reiter said enhanced training is central to this funding.
“It’s going to be about training, right across the board for doctors and nurse practitioners on opioid substitution therapy and further training for addictions counsellors, social workers,” he said.
Specific areas this new funding will be targeted for include:
- Recruiting and training more health care providers in opioid substitution therapy, including physicians and nurse practitioners.
- Training health care providers to adjust treatment and care plans based around the root causes of substance abuse, such as trauma.
- Work with the Saskatchewan Health Authority and community based organizations to expand the use of remote services, like telehealth, to provide services not locally available in certain communities.
- Train health care providers in therapeutic treatment options for patients using crystal meth, like behavioural therapy and trauma informed practices.
WATCH BELOW: Videos on the opioid crisis in Saskatchewan
Because this is a five year program, Reiter could not say exactly when or how much money will be made available at certain times. He did add they want to get some out as quickly as possible. A portion is expected this fiscal year, and a better picture will be established in the 2019-20 budget.
Reiter added expanded treatment beds are being examined by the province. Future announcements on that issue are expected.
Mental health and addictions critic Danielle Chartier is glad to see federal funding coming to the province, but says more still needs to be done. Top of her list: an improved addictions strategy for the province.
“We have a task force here in Saskatchewan that got zero resources and didn’t draw in people from communities with lived experience,” Chartier said.
“We need a plan that includes prevention and awareness, increased treatment, harm reduction and I don’t see any of that. I see some good measures for sure, but this has been a government that’s been asleep at the wheel when it comes to both opioids and crystal meth.”
Saskatchewan’s Mental Health and Addictions action plan touts total government spending of $367 million across government for mental health and addictions resources this year in their June, 2018 newsletter.
Addictions advocate Dr. Wendy Gore-Hickman previously came to the Legislative Assembly to call for improved resources. She said this announcement was a necessary first step, especially more training opioid replacement therapy. One of her clients was recently told he’d have a six week wait before getting into treatment in Saskatoon.
“That’s completely unacceptable, it should be accessible on demand. So I’m really excited to see that’s going to be addressed,” Gore-Hickman said.
The doctor is in favour of all initiatives, but said that more still needs to be done to create a better flow in treatment.
“Opioid replacement therapy is crucial in saving people’s lives, but then people need to move on to treatment. With out lack of detox beds, a complete non-availability of medical detox in the province and no smooth transition from detox to treatment service because we don’t have the bed availability there’s still so much work to be done,” Gore-Hickman said.
In addition to increased beds, something the province is looking into, Gore-Hickman said Saskatchewan needs to reach the national average of seven per cent of health funding going to mental health and addictions. In the 2018/19 budget, that spending made up around 5.3 per cent of the health budget.