Sunday, January 21, 2024

Today's News: Prairie Harm Reduction - "It's about keeping people alive"

It has taken years for Canadians to understand the concept of harm reduction - which means everything from sunscreen to seatbelts, not just safe injection sites and naloxone - but Canadians generally "get it" now. 
The federal government's Canadian drugs and substances strategy describes harm reduction as 
 an evidence-based, public health approach that aims to reduce the negative health, social, and economic impacts of substance use related harms, without requiring or promoting abstinence. 
The National Harm Reduction Coalition in New York outlines harm reduction this way: 
Harm reduction is a set of practical strategies and ideas aimed at reducing negative consequences associated with drug use. Harm Reduction is also a movement for social justice built on a belief in, and respect for, the rights of people who use drugs. 
Seems pretty straightforward to me -- but conservative governments just refuse to grasp it. 
They appear to think that shaming and blaming and punishment will get people off drugs, and anyone who can't or won't go cold turkey is just worthless scum who aren't worth worrying about.
Now the Sask Party has done it again. They decided they just had to stop funding pipes and needles for people addicted to drugs because, well, EWEUUUU! DRUGS! 
And Saskatoon's Prairie Harm Reduction is leading the fight against this short-sighted and mean policy change:
Many experts disagree with such restrictions, arguing that adding barriers to sterile needle access can lead to increased rates of blood-borne illness and HIV transmission.
"You know, it's not about funding illicit drug use, it's about keeping people alive. And in this province, we already have the highest rates of HIV transmission in Canada," said Prairie Harm Reduction director Kayla Demong.
"The very little control we're able to keep on this situation, it's just going to explode. And it is directly related to our homeless population, our Indigenous people of this province, and people that aren't welcome anywhere else," Demong said.
Prairie Harm Reduction keeps up the good fight, but its a battle every day.
Public response has been furious:
The federal Conservative party doesn't care: Neither does the Saskatchewan Health Minister:
In the interview Tuesday, McLeod was unable to point to a single piece of evidence that helped the province make the decision to changes its policies.
Instead, he repeatedly pointed to how the changes are part of the provinces transition to a "recovery-oriented system of care."
The province announced a new action plan for mental health and addiction last fall, with the goal of adding at least 500 more addictions treatment spaces to double treatment capacity in the province.
A total of 168 treatment spaces have been announced so far, including:
26 post-treatment spaces at Joseph's Addiction Recovery Centre in Estevan.
32 intensive outpatient treatment spaces through Possibilities Recovery Centre in Saskatoon.
36 virtual treatment spaces through EHN Canada, a national network of treatment centres.
14 inpatient treatment spaces at the former Drumming Hill Youth Centre facility in North Battleford.
60 other inpatient treatment spaces through EHN Canada.
By the way, what is a "virtual treatment space" you ask? I'm not sure but it seems to include an app
Last year The Tyee did an article about Edgewood (EHN) in BC in which they reported program costs for inpatient and outpatient treatments ranging from $8 thousand to $30 thousand. They also interviewed former patients:
... half a dozen people who’ve gone through Edgewood treatment or paid for relatives to receive it raised questions about adequate safety measures, quality of counselling, the program’s emphasis on 12-step methods based on Christian traditions, lack of preparation for future relapse and whether the fees are worth the results...
And that Possibilities Recovery Centre in Saskatoon which will be funded for outpatient treatments? The chair of its board appears to be former Sask Party MLA Eric Olauson.

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