The federal government is providing Peterborough police with $1.9 million over three years for an outreach team to help drug users and overdose victims to receive support services.
On Wednesday, Peterborough-Kawartha MP Maryam Monsef outlined the funding for the Peterborough Police Service for a pilot project that will connect people at risk of experiencing an opioid-related overdose with community-based outreach and support services in the city.
The funding is provided through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP), which provides financial support to “strengthen responses” to drug and substance use issues in Canada.
As part of the pilot project, the Peterborough Police Service has created a collaborative community-based mobile outreach team to increase the capacity and options available to first responders to refer people who have experienced an overdose.
Monsef says this outreach new team will help divert people who use drugs away from the criminal justice system and into supportive to harm reduction, peer support, health and social services.
“Too many were living in crisis before COVID. Mental health challenges, problematic substance use, and the added pressures of self-isolation have increased the deaths and tragedies in our community,” said Monsef.
“Problematic substance use is a public health issue. Caring professionals in our community have asked for additional resources to help them with their important work. This investment will create over seven positions to allow co-ordination among essential front-line workers, so those who need the help are redirected from the criminal justice system to harm reduction, peer support, health and social services.
“There is much more to be done. Today is a positive step forward.”
Monsef noted the project will also increase access to culturally appropriate services for Indigenous people, LGBTQ2 populations, youth, women and those living with HIV through partnerships with other organizations such as the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre and PARN.
Peter Williams, the Peterborough Police Service’s community development and engagement co-ordinator, said the project is a “critical” addition to the city and Peterborough County’s efforts to tackle the opioid crisis.
“We would like to thank Health Canada for funding this important pilot project creating a community-based response team, which includes a community-based paramedic, complex case managers for addictions, and peer outreach worker,” he said. “A continuum of responses, tools, services and programs is vital addressing the complex issues surrounding the opioid/drug poisoning/overdose crisis.”
Peterborough Mayor Diane Therrien echoed the sentiment.
“We know that opioid-related overdoses and deaths can be prevented,” she said. “All levels of government need to work together to address this public health crisis.”
J. Murray Jones, warden of Peterborough County, said residents are pleased to be part of the community-based approach to addressing the area’s opioid crisis.
“We have seen the impacts of this tragic crisis we are in and the federal funding in support of this collaborative pilot program is very much needed and very much appreciated,” he said.
In June, the Elizabeth Fry Society of Peterborough received $1.2 million over four years from the government of Canada for a peer-to-peer harm reduction and recovery program.