A grant program launched Thursday by the city of Regina will provide up to $500,000 to local organizations involved in harm reduction.
According to a news release, the city defines harm reduction as “an approach taken in many cities that focuses on the prevention of harm in people who continue to use drugs, rather than on the prevention of drug use itself.”
“It’s been on our radar for quite some time, and certainly the police and others have flagged it for years,” said Ward 3 Councillor Andrew Stevens.
“So at the city budget meeting we decided to put our money where our mouth is.”
Funding for the launch of the program will come form the city’s COVID-19 Recovery Reserve.
Stevens says the plan is to then roll the program annually into the Social Development stream of the Community Investments Grant Program.
“This is really a small measure but it’s important. It’s especially important when the government is not financing certain programs like safe consumption sites, so we’re really filling in the gap there,” Stevens said.
“This is really a start, but I think it’s also going to require all levels of government to participate more actively at the community level. Perhaps we’d like to see some matching funds for the same kind of programs at the community level form the federal and provincial government.”
The application deadline is July 31. Funding is expected to be distributed starting in September.
Newo Yotina Friendship Centre Executive Director Michael Parker, who helped launch Regina’s first overdose prevention site, commended the announcement.
He said grants like this will help keep the site’s doors open.
“I think the city of Regina and the city councillors have really shown a lot of leadership,” he said.
“I think it left things really flexible for what different organizations’ needs might be.”
He agreed, though, that continued funding of harm reduction programs and services is needed from all government levels to combat the overdose and addictions crisis.
He said his organization is seeking provincial funding to help run the site, but has yet to be granted a chance to discuss the idea with provincial officials.
“It’s a stop gap in what should be a provincial responsibility.”