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Resilience Amidst Cuts: The Fight for Harm Reduction and recovery-oriented care in Saskatchewan.

Harm reduction is a vital strategy in addressing substance use disorders, focusing on minimizing the negative social and individual health consequences associated with drug use rather than solely focusing on abstinence. In Saskatchewan, harm reduction programs have played a crucial role in supporting individuals struggling with substance use and reducing the harms associated with drug use in communities across the province. However, recent decisions by the government to defund harm reduction supplies have raised significant concerns among advocates, experts, and community members.


Saskatchewan has a history of implementing certain harm reduction programs aimed at reducing the spread of blood-borne infections, preventing overdoses, and supporting individuals in their journey towards wellness. These programs have been include providing access to clean needles, naloxone kits, and other harm reduction supplies to those in need. The importance of harm reduction in addressing substance use disorders cannot be overstated, as it acknowledges the complexities of drug use and prioritizes the safety of individuals because as many have said "dead people don't recover".


Despite the proven effectiveness of harm reduction programs, the government of Saskatchewan has made the decision to defund harm reduction supplies, citing various reasons including a shift in policy priorities. As quoted in an article published on January 29th by Global News Mental Health and Addictions Minister Tim Mcleod said "The message coming from the health care system should be that there is hope for recovery, and help iss available through treatment,” Mcleod went on "No illicit drugs are safe, and that is why the Government of Saskatchewan is focused on getting more people the treatment they need to overcome addictions and live healthy, safe lives in recovery."


The decision to defund harm reduction supplies has sparked significant controversy and criticism from various quarters. Advocates and experts have raised concerns about the potential increase in overdose deaths, the strain on healthcare resources, and the impact on marginalized communities. Community members have also expressed outrage at the government's decision, highlighting the importance of harm reduction in supporting individuals with substance use disorders and reducing the risk of bloodborn infections and other harms associated with drug use.


One of the most significant concerns surrounding the defunding of harm reduction supplies is its impact on populations including individuals with substance use disorders, Indigenous communities, and people living in poverty.


FSIN Chief Bobby Cameron was quoted in the same article saying “This is unacceptable and needs to change. You are responsible for listening to and respecting First Nations’ voices and working with us to find culturally appropriate and effective solutions,” Camerson said about the province. “This matter is urgent and requires your immediate action.”


Access to clean needles, naloxone kits, and other harm reduction supplies is essential for preventing overdoses, reducing the spread of blood-borne infections, and supporting individualsfind a level of stability in their life that could lead them to a pathway of wellness. The defunding of these supplies threatens to exacerbate existing health disparities and increase the risk of harm among marginalized communities.


In light of the decision to defund harm reduction supplies, there is a growing need to explore alternative approaches to addressing substance use disorders and supporting individuals in their journey towards recovery. Recovery-oriented systems of care offer a holistic approach to treatment that focuses on addressing the underlying factors contributing to substance use, providing access to peer support, therapy, and other essential services.  Rand Teed A prevention specialist and consultant for ROSC Solutions Group told CBC News in an article that "What they need is help to get some decent medical support, help to get some decent housing, help to get some decent food," said Teed. "Not necessarily a new crack pipe or an unlimited access to needles."


By investing in recovery-oriented systems of care, policymakers can support individuals in their journey towards recovery and reduce the harms associated with drug use in communities across Saskatchewan.


Or at least that seems to be the Saskatchewan Party's hope. What are your thoughts? Feel free to email me at daniel@hardknoxtalks.com


If you want to hear more please feel free to check out my latest production with Rand Teed where we speak to this recent shift in harm reduction funding and other topical conversation points like coercive treatment, and regulating the illicit supply of substances that is bringing so much harm to our communities.




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