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AIDS Saskatoon denied funding for supervised consumption site in provincial budget

AIDS Saskatoon denied supervised injection site funding by provincial government
WATCH: AIDS Saskatoon executive director says it's not what he wanted, but now he's focused on helping the city's vulnerable through the coronavirus pandemic.

The Saskatchewan government did not grant AIDS Saskatoon funding for a supervised consumption site.

The organization had applied for $1.3 million to open and fully staff a facility with two paramedics and two support staff workers 24 hours a day, for a year.

But the group was not allocated enough money in Wednesday’s budget.

READ MORE: Saskatchewan’s 2020-21 spending plan aims to serve as stimulus package during coronavirus pandemic

Jason Mercredi, AIDS Saskatoon’s executive director, said it’s not what he was hoping for, but right now, he is focused on helping the organizations’ clients.

“Our folks are among the most vulnerable. They are immuno-compromised, just based on the nature of the work we do, living with HIV and hepatitis C, so we have to do our part,” he said via Skype.

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“We really want to be clear. We’re focused now on reducing the coronavirus pandemic.”

READ MORE: Saskatchewan has the highest rate of hepatitis C infections per person

Mercredi said the strategies recommended by the national and provincial chief medical officers don’t work “when people don’t have a home to self-isolate in.”

He said the chances for an overdose in this population remain high and could mean emergency responders are drawn away from other situations where they might be needed during the pandemic and state of emergency.

Mercredi told Global News vulnerable people need their medication and access to food.

READ MORE: Sask. government won’t give extra money for consumption site policing: minister

“[A lack of food] is a huge barrier we’re starting to see in the city. We need to be supporting our food banks and the friendship inn and make sure they have the support they need to continue to serve the most vulnerable in the city,” he said.

He said not receiving full funding in the budget wasn’t the worst scenario. The group did get $130,000 for two new case managers.

He said AIDS Saskatoon will continue to work towards a supervised consumption site once the pandemic is over.