Do Saskatchewan residents support safe drug supply programs?

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Do Saskatchewan residents support safe drug supply programs?
A new survey is highlighting the level of support for safe drug supply program in Sask. As Gates Guarin reports, public education and persuasion are some of the biggest hurdles. – May 10, 2023

A University of Alberta study shows the majority of residents in Saskatchewan and Alberta support safer supply programs to replace illegal street drugs.

“Predicted probabilities show a greater probability of support for safer supply among those with higher education and those leaning left on the political spectrum,” the paper read.

The paper showed 56.3 per cent of those asked in Saskatchewan were supportive, and 63.5 per cent of those asked in Alberta were supportive.

In Alberta, 24.1 per cent of respondents were not supportive and 12.4 per cent were unsure. In Saskatchewan, 25.8 per cent of respondents were not supportive and 18 per cent were unsure.

A total of 1602 people took part in the survey and were asked on a five point scale whether or not they agreed with the following question:

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“To address substance use and addiction issues, the Alberta/Saskatchewan government should: Support safer supply programs that replace illegal street drugs with pharmaceutical alternatives for those unable to stop using.”

Breaking that down on the political spectrum, people who identified as far left leaning had a higher probability (91.7 per cent) of supporting safer supply policies than people on the far right (45.3 per cent).

Those with a graduate or professional degree had a higher probability of supporting those same policies (67.6 per cent) than those who didn’t graduate high school (53.7 per cent).

“This study demonstrates that support for safer supply programs is both diffuse and relatively high in Alberta and Saskatchewan. That government policy remains out of step with public opinion reveals unique challenges and opportunities for advocates of safer supply.”

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Kayla DeMong, Director for Prairie Harm Reduction in Saskatoon, said the idea of safe supply programs isn’t a big leap from safe consumption sites.

“I think it goes to show, and continue to show, that the people of our province and the people across this country are really ready for innovation,” DeMong said.

She said they’ve seen that with the support Prairie Harm Reduction has received from residents.

“Despite our government refusing to fund us year after year, the people of Saskatchewan have continued reaching deep into their pockets and providing that support.”

DeMong said people are realizing that what currently exists within the system just isn’t working.

She said when she looks at the people who are supporting their organization she sees a wide range of people with different backgrounds, noting it’s not just “young, liberal people fighting against the government.”

“The people that are really resistant to looking at these programs are the people that are still placing a very strong moral judgment on people that use substances, and that idea that people who use drugs are bad.”

She added that there’s this idea that recovery is a magical cure that is available to everyone, but said that’s not the case in our society.

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DeMong said she’s seeing a lot of great pilot projects popping up in other provinces, and she wonders what that could look like in the Prairies.

She stressed that the drug supply seen right now is poisoned, giving examples of some of the drugs they’ve seen through their spectrometer drug testing.

“We saw this evident this morning in the safe consumption site in Regina where they tested something that came back for xylazine, which is a substance that we are incredibly concerned about right now across the country.”

DeMong explained that a xylazine overdose cannot be reversed with naloxone, and the spectrometer allows them to warn the community if it’s present within drugs they are testing.

She added almost 100 per cent of what they are testing is coming back with fentanyl.

“All of our crystal meth that we’ve tested in the last few weeks has come back positive for fentanyl. So, that just continues to show the poisoning crisis that we are in.”

Global News reached out to the Ministry of Health and asked if the government intends on increasing efforts towards safe supply programs, but it responded with a statement that didn’t address safe supply programs.

Instead, the ministry talked about how it increased funding for addictions services, and gave several examples of harm reduction and addiction treatment methods that are implemented in the province.


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