Health Canada approves 1st supervised consumption site in Saskatchewan

Health Canada has approved the first supervised consumption site in Saskatoon and the province. File / Global News

Health Canada has approved what would be the first supervised consumption site (SCS) in Saskatchewan.

It will be run by the non-profit organization AIDS Saskatoon. The facility is currently being built at 1516 20th St. West.

According to the federal agency’s website, the application was approved on July 31.

In Canada, possession of controlled substances is prohibited under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. To operate an SCS, an exemption must be granted.

Exempted services granted for the SCS in Saskatoon allow illicit drugs to be inhaled, injected, or consumed on-site.

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The sites are part of a long-term, comprehensive approach to addressing the harms associated with problematic substance use. They are also an entry point to treatment and social services.

People can use an SCS for a number of reasons including:

  • a safe, clean place to consume illegal substances;
  • drug checking to detect adulterants using methods such as fentanyl test strips;
  • emergency medical care in case of overdose, cardiac arrest or allergic reaction;
  • testing for infectious diseases;
  • access to sterile drug use equipment and a place to safely dispose of it after use; and
  • health professionals and support staff.

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“People think it’s just like a shooting gallery but it’s not. It is the complete opposite of that,” AIDS Saskatoon executive director Jason Mercredi said on Tuesday.

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“These facilities are all about engaging people that are engaging with services and getting them to engage not just with us but also with other service providers so that we can get them out of that lifestyle and down that path to recovery,” Mercredi said.

He added a goal is to employ people who are in recovery and are doing well so they can support others.

Health Canada said the sites are often located near established illegal drug markets in order to reach their target population. Research shows an SCS is cost-effective and does not increase drug use and crime in the surrounding area, according to the agency’s website.

“We knew that the need was here and we were able to show that pretty consistently that this location is needed and it couldn’t be better located in the city,” Mercredi said.

“We’re in the middle of a crystal meth epidemic … on top of that; we lead the country in HIV infections and Saskatoon’s (Pleasant Hill neighbourhood is) ground zero … having this location is key.”

The Saskatoon SCS won’t be up and running until sometime next year, he added.

Mercredi hopes to have open houses in the fall to introduce the facility to the community once construction is complete.


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