The federal government has announced $1.2 million in funding over the next four years to the Elizabeth Fry Society of Peterborough, Ont., to better support people who have experienced overdoses.
On Tuesday morning, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef, on behalf of Health Minister Patty Hajdu, announced the funding, which will be used for a peer-to-peer harm reduction and recovery program, primarily out of Peterborough Regional Health Centre. Monsef says the focus is on individuals who have overdosed, are at risk of an overdose or who have recently been discharged from a hospital emergency room.
Although the society is primarily focused on serving women, the programs will serve men and women who are at risk.
As of the end of May, there have been 15 drug-related deaths in the city, according to the Peterborough Public Health Unit and Peterborough Police Service.
Monsef says through its network of community after-care services and evidence-informed peer support training, the Elizabeth Fry Society will help substance users engage with people who have experienced overdoses in a “rapid, convenient and culturally sensitive way.”
“The opioid crisis is about ordinary people — our neighbours, friends, parents and children who are struggling with addiction,” said Monsef.
“Bringing an end to this crisis will not be easy, but we will do it by working together as a community with support and compassion for victims, service providers, families and everyone involved.”
Staff at Peterborough Regional Health Centre will also receive training to better understand the stigma surrounding substance use.
According to Debbie Carriere, executive director of the society, the program will provide 24-hour service and feature six full-time staff with the capacity to serve roughly 500 referrals annually while offering substance-use-related learning and engagement opportunities.
“The answer to addiction is connection,” she said. “People with lived experience will connect with individuals struggling with addictions in order to encourage and motivate them to move along the continuum of care to a healthier, more stable place.”
Referrals are currently being taken directly from hospital as of June 8, with an opportunity for referrals from the police service, emergency services, social service agencies, correctional institutions and self-referrals in the near future, Carriere said.
The funding is provided through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program, which provides financial support to strengthen responses to drug and substance use issues.
In a statement Hajdu said the opioid overdose crisis is one of the “most significant” public health issues in Canada’s recent history.
“Problematic substance use is a medical condition, not a moral one,” said Hajdu. “We’ve responded by investing in emergency response and treatment, restoring harm reduction, and authorized 40 supervised consumption sites. We know that COVID-19 has further complicated this situation. In this time of emergency measures, we’re taking action to ensure Canadians have access to the support that they need.”
More to come.