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Prairie Harm Reduction asking for $1.3M from Saskatchewan government again

Click to play video: 'Prairie Harm Reduction asking for $1.3M from Saskatchewan government again' Prairie Harm Reduction asking for $1.3M from Saskatchewan government again
WATCH: Prairie Harm Reduction is once again asking the government to open its wallet and provide funding for Saskatoon's supervised drug consumption site – Mar 12, 2021

The operator of the province’s only open supervised consumption site will once again ask the Saskatchewan government for funding.

Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR) has submitted a funding request of $1.3 million in order to keep the site open 24/7.

Read more: AIDS Saskatoon denied funding for supervised consumption site in provincial budget

The executive director said the number of people who have died from a drug overdose over the last 14 months is proof the services PHR offers are needed in the city and across Saskatchewan.

“Our need keeps growing. The biggest complaint we have from clientele is that they’d like us to be open later,” Jason Mercredi told Global News.

The Saskatchewan Coroners Service has reported 233 confirmed and 112 suspected overdose deaths in 2020 with 10 confirmed and 65 suspected for the first two months of 2021.

Last year’s numbers nearly double the previous record in 2019 of 177.

PHR made a similar request last year, but it was denied. Mercredi said conversations with the government have advanced.

“The fact that they created a portfolio for this file is usually a good sign. Not to mention that the situation has just deteriorated to the point of almost no return,” he said.

Read more: Saskatchewan chief coroner issues warning after 4 suspected drug-related deaths in under 3 weeks

The province denying PHR’s request last year ultimately delayed the opening of its supervised consumption site until Oct. 1.
Click to play video: 'Saskatoon police Chief Troy Cooper reflects on challenging 2020' Saskatoon police Chief Troy Cooper reflects on challenging 2020
Saskatoon police Chief Troy Cooper reflects on challenging 2020 – Dec 24, 2020
Mercredi said no one has died while consuming drugs at the site since it opened.PHR has put in two additional requests this year in case the $1.3 million is turned down — one for $900,000 and another for $300,000.Mercredi said if they receive the former, the site would be able to extend hours until midnight while the latter would simply allow them to continue operating at the same level.However any amount would allow them to look at bringing in additional programming like drug testing to determine if substances were non-fatal before being consumed.
PHR said fundraising, community support and merchandise sales continue to bring in revenue.

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

On March 9, the Saskatchewan NDP called on the province to make investments to combat Saskatchewan’s drug crisis.At a press conference, leader Ryan Meili asked what it would take for Premier Scott Moe to take the crisis more seriously.
Click to play video: 'Calls increase for more funding to address addiction crisis in Saskatchewan' Calls increase for more funding to address addiction crisis in Saskatchewan
Calls increase for more funding to address addiction crisis in Saskatchewan – Mar 10, 2021
The New Democrats are specifically looking at six different areas to combat the province’s overdose crisis:
  • Free naloxone kits at pharmacies across the province
  • Approving and funding safe consumption sites in urban centres and making remote video overdose prevention support available for people in rural communities
  • Guaranteeing timelines for access to mental health and addictions treatment, including dedicated mental health and addictions emergency rooms
  • Setting up drug courts
  • Study of safe prescription alternatives used in other jurisdictions and the applicability in Saskatchewan
  • Reducing the amount of fatal drugs being sold

Read more: Calls for fresh approach from Saskatchewan’s first addictions, mental health minister

A statement from the provincial government responding to the NDP’s calls said it invested more than $434.5 million in mental health and addictions services in 2020-21 which included $1.75 million towards harm reduction.There was an increase of more than $600,000 in harm reduction funding from the previous budget and included money for two caseworkers at PHR, the statement said.
The statement also states that new initiatives are in place this year including dedicated addiction health-care workers in Regina and Saskatoon emergency departments and that free, take-home naloxone kits are available at 45 sites in 30 communities.It also stated drug courts have been set up in Regina and Moose Jaw.
Click to play video: 'Sask. harm reductions advocates pitch more options to make drug use safer' Sask. harm reductions advocates pitch more options to make drug use safer
Sask. harm reductions advocates pitch more options to make drug use safer – Mar 6, 2021
Planning to get a drug court operational in Saskatoon was underway, but was paused because of the pandemic.“We understand that addressing overdoses in Saskatchewan cannot be a one-size-fits-all strategy, and that is why we continue to collaborate with stakeholders across the province. Further initiatives are being considered as part of the budget process,” read the statement from the Ministry of Health.Regina’s supervised consumption site operator is anticipating sending in a funding request, but nothing has been formalized. It was given the green light to operate on March 5.The provincial budget is set to be delivered on April 6.

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