Safe Supply Now
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The Municipal Drug Strategy Coordinators Network of Ontario (MDSCNO) calls on the Government of Canada and the Province of Ontario to immediately increase funding for safer supply initiatives to improve the health, safety and well- being of people who use drugs in Ontario.
Safer supply initiatives provide pharmaceutical-grade drugs, such as hydromorphone or diacetylmorphine, to people who use substances within a health care context. They significantly improve individual health by transitioning people from the toxic, unregulated market to pharmaceutical-grade substances within a health care context. They address substance use as a health issue rather than a criminal justice issue. Safer supply initiatives can also offer participants case management and other supports to address a spectrum of health and social concerns. These health initiatives have demonstrated exceptionally high client retention rates and significant reductions in overdose fatalities while simultaneously creating a pathway to health care services for their clients.
Beyond the health sector, safer supply initiatives provide significant benefits, including improved community safety and well-being, and reduced enforcement- and criminal justice-related costs. For these reasons, they have strong support in many Ontario communities.
In 2019, Ontario recorded the highest number of opioid-related overdose deaths in Canada, with 1,535 people dying from opioid-related poisoning, surpassing the province of British Columbia for the first time. Since the year 2000, when 111 opioid-related fatalities were recorded, the number of preventable deaths has increased every year, resulting in declining life expectancy in Ontario. While several factors contribute to the drug poisoning crisis, exposure to toxic drugs from an unregulated market is the primary driver of deaths in Ontario and the rest of Canada.
The drug poisoning crisis has been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in two concurrent public health crises. Services have temporarily closed or reduced their hours and capacity. In addition, the unregulated drug market has become increasingly toxic. Stress, isolation, and other pandemic-related factors have increased the risks associated with substance use. Preliminary data from the Office of the Chief Coroner for Ontario shows a 35% increase in suspected drug-related deaths in Ontario in March, April and May 2020 compared to the monthly average in 2019, with approximately 60 suspected-drug related deaths occurring each week. Urgent action is needed to address the opioid poisoning crisis that is co-occurring with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The MDSCNO calls on the federal government to:
(1) urgently increase Health Canada's Substance Use and Addiction Programs (SUAP) funding for existing safer supply initiatives, and
(2) issue a call for new SUAP safer supply proposals to support a full spectrum of safer supply initiatives across Canada.
The MDSCNO calls on the provincial government to:
(1) fund implementation of safer supply initiatives in a coordinated approach with the federal government; and
(2) support the implementation of safer supply initiatives by adding the required formulations, such as hydromorphone (i.e., 50 milligrams/millilitres and 100 milligrams/millilitres hydromorphone) and diacetylmorphine, to the Ontario Drug Benefit Formulary to enable safer supply initiatives to operate.
The MDSCNO’s members are among Ontario’s leading experts in drug policy and program development. We represent comprehensive drug strategies in many municipalities throughout Ontario who share a collective interest in making our province safer and healthier for present and future generations.
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