Prairie Harm Reduction preparing for opening of supervised consumption site

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Prairie Harm Reduction preparing for opening of supervised consumption site
WATCH: Saskatchewan's first supervised consumption site opens in Saskatoon in less than two weeks and the facility has just added a new critical staff member – Sep 17, 2020

In two weeks, Saskatchewan’s first supervised consumption site will open in Saskatoon.

Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR), formerly known as AIDS Saskatoon, has been working to get the facility open for five years. There’s been a lot going on behind the scenes, including the recent hire of an on-site paramedic.

Tessa Park will assess people coming in. She will also prevent overdoses and respond to any if they happen. Park’s been connecting with people who use PHR’s services since Sept. 1, and has six years of experience as a paramedic.

Read more: Saskatoon police officers use Narcan 3 times during overnight overdose calls

“A lot of these skills are transferable. I think the big change is going to be developing the ongoing relationships with the people and seeing them time and time again,” PHR support services director Julia Holiday-Scott said about Park’s new position.

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“Responding to people you don’t know is traumatic but it’s much different when you have a relationship with the people. We have a relationship with everyone who accesses our drop in space.”

Park’s salary is primarily funded by fundraising initiatives. Mercredi said provincial funding didn’t cover much, but there’s been a lot of support from the community. Most items in an online store have been sold out.

Read more: Saskatchewan health minister responds to potential record drug overdose numbers

“(The ministry) gave us money for case workers which is great, but we didn’t get what we asked for the safe consumption site,” Mercredi said.

“We were asking for a small amount, it was 0.08 per cent of the overall budget.”

On top of budget concerns, the COVID-19 pandemic has been tough to navigate.

“It was horrible for our population because everybody was told to stay home and they don’t have access to homes,” Holiday-Scott said.

Read more: Regina police respond to 7 overdoses in 36 hours, 6 of them fatal

People using the facility will be screened for the novel coronavirus as they enter and will then be told how the site works.

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Four people can use the supervised consumption site a time, allowing Park to fully supervise people as they use drugs. They will then make their way to the drop in centre where they have access to services including housing and family support.

The site will be open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., but with more funding PHR hopes to eventually operate every day of the year.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan families advocate for urgent solutions to overdose crisis'
Saskatchewan families advocate for urgent solutions to overdose crisis

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