Guelph's safer drug supply program gets $1.1 million in federal funding

New data indicates the opioid crisis has worsened throughout the pandemic, especially in marginalized communities.

A Guelph program that prescribes opioids to an individual with complex addictions has received $1.1 million from the federal government.

Guelph MP Lloyd Longfield made that announcement on Thursday during a virtual press conference.

The Safer Supply pilot program is run through the Guelph Community Health Centre and sees a physician or nurse practitioner prescribe clean opioids to people with addictions while providing wraparound services.

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It currently only has 10 participants, but with the funding through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program, it could reach up to 150 people.

“People in Guelph are dying in record numbers,” said Melissa Kwiatkowski, primary health director of the Guelph CHC.

“We know the uncertainty brought on by COVID-19 has contributed to increasing substance use and isolation, making our existing crisis much worse.”

According to the Guelph CHC, there was a 260 per cent increase in the number of suspected substance-related deaths between April 2020 and March 2021.

“Opioids and other substances are commonly trafficked on the street and have inconsistent strength and purity,” the Guelph CHC said in a news release.

“If people who use drugs lose access to their usual supplier, they may be purchasing substances of unknown potency, or replace their ‘usual’ substance with an alternative, putting themselves at higher risk of overdose and death.”

The Safer Supply program was launched in 2020 and is guided by a clinical advisory council that includes physicians and pharmacists.

It is meant for those with opioid addictions who have been unsuccessful in other treatment programs.

“This is another important harm reduction tool in our toolbox, and it will save lives,” said Dr. Dorothy Bakker, a physician on the program’s clinical advisory team.

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“We know that when someone who struggles with complex opioid addictions has consistent access to safer, prescribed substances, it reduces the need to engage in behaviours that are associated with the illegal drug trade market, and in many cases, they are able to regain control over their lives.”

The Guelph CHC added that research supports that safer supply programs in other communities also lead to reduced rates of infectious disease, less homelessness, increased employment and lower crime rates.

© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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