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Saskatchewan’s first supervised consumption site marks 1 week since opening

Click to play video 'Sask.’s 1st supervised consumption site opens as overdose deaths spike' Sask.’s 1st supervised consumption site opens as overdose deaths spike
WATCH: The province's first supervised consumption site opened in Saskatoon on Oct. 1 – Oct 1, 2020

It’s been a week since Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR) staff placed a sign in front of their building, announcing the opening of Saskatchewan’s first supervised drug consumption site.

“It’s been a pretty big relief for us to be open,” said PHR executive director Jason Mercredi.

Read more: Saskatchewan’s first supervised consumption site opens as overdose deaths spike

Since then, the facility at 1516 20th St. W. has been used 30 times by 23 clients, he said.

The paramedic who runs the clinic from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on weekdays has not had to reverse any overdoses yet.

“We’re slowly building up the reputation with people who are using drugs,” Mercredi told Global News in a recent interview. “It takes a little bit to get them in the building.”

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He anticipates the site will see its maximum capacity of 72 people a day once temperatures drop, forcing people inside.

“We can take that entire winter to build up the programming, so that people stay here come springtime and we can start engaging them in those supports and getting them on the path of recovery,” he said.

Read more: Unanswered distress calls: Overdose response requires political will, community members say

PHR staff also plan to use that time to establish a database for monthly reporting on facility use and drug trends. The public reports will include information on users’ housing status, the supports they were referred to, and eventually, whether their need for emergency services has decreased.

Those numbers could help fill a data gap on the overdose crisis, since the Saskatchewan Health Authority does not publicly report overdose deaths.

“An informed public can make better, safer choices,” Mercredi said.

Still chasing the money

PHR staff are steadfast in their aim to secure government funding for the overdose prevention site.

Their $1.3-million request was denied in the most recent provincial budget, so the organization has been collecting community donations to run the site at a limited capacity.

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Going forward, Mercredi said they hope to increase the hours of operation and have two medical staff on site at all times.

Doing that will require government dollars — something the Saskatchewan Party has not committed to sharing with PHR, should the party be re-elected on Oct. 26.

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

“There’s nothing saying that we wouldn’t look at funding that as well as other initiatives in the future,” Saskatchewan Party leader Scott Moe said at a campaign event on Sept. 30.

“There are various ways that we can put forward supports for (people struggling with addiction) and their families and we’ll continue to do that.”

The Saskatchewan NDP said if elected, they’d bankroll the operation.

“Harm reduction is extremely important,” Saskatchewan NDP leader Ryan Meili said at a campaign event last week.

“People are losing family members and people are struggling. There’s so much pain connected to overdose deaths (and) to the number of people that are dealing with addictions.”

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Are you or someone you know struggling with addiction? Here’s a list of resources you can use to get help.

  • A list of addiction services in different communities is available here.
  • To find a Narcotics Anonymous meeting in Central Saskatchewan, click here.
  • To find a local Alcoholics Anonymous group, click here.
  • The province’s healthline is available 24-7 at 811 or 1-877-800-0002.
  • The problem gambling helpline is available 24-7 at 1-800-306-6789.