COVID-19 Outbreak Worsening Overdose Crisis – Health Minister Hajdu

Minister of Health Patty Hajdu
Minister of Health Patty Hajdu

Life-saving initiative will provide pharmaceutical-grade medication as an alternative to toxic illegal drug supply during COVID-19 outbreak

OTTAWA – The opioid overdose crisis continues to be one of the most serious public health crises in Canada’s recent history. Tragically, in many communities, the COVID-19 outbreak is worsening this crisis.

Federal Minister of Health Patty Hajdu says, “We’re seeing in many parts of Canada, including Ottawa, that the COVID-19 outbreak is worsening the overdose crisis, with tragic results. I am proud to support projects like this one that recognizes everyone must be treated with compassion and extend an important lifeline to people struggling with substance use. Supporting this community-based project is part of the Government of Canada’s efforts to help people at risk of overdose stay safe during the outbreak and find access to care and treatment.”

The federal government states that it is taking action to ensure communities have the tools and support they need to keep people at risk of overdose safe during the outbreak.

Mona Fortier, Minister of Middle-Class Prosperity and Associate Minister of Finance, on behalf of the Honourable Patty Hajdu, Minister of Health, highlighted federal funding of $1.4 million over 10 months for a safer supply project for people at risk of overdose during the COVID-19 outbreak in Ottawa.

Led by Pathways to Recovery, Safer Supply Ottawa will expand upon existing Ottawa community-based services to provide people who are at great risk of overdose and death during COVID-19 with a safer medical alternative from a licensed prescriber. Along with reducing the risk of overdose and other drug-related harms, this project also aims to improve the physical and mental health and well-being of people who use drugs, and reduce involvement of people who use drugs in the criminal justice system. Safer supply initiatives, like this one, connect people with important health and social services, including treatment, which may be more difficult to access during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Substance use disorder is a health condition that can be managed and treated if people are provided with services and supports that best meet their needs. During the COVID-19 outbreak, people who use drugs are experiencing a number of increased risks, with several jurisdictions reporting higher rates of overdose, including fatal overdoses and other harms related to an increasingly toxic illegal supply. The Government of Canada is working in collaboration with all levels of government, partners, stakeholders, people with lived and living experience of drug use, and organizations in communities across the country to respond to the pandemic and the overdose crisis.

“In response to the ongoing toxic illegal drug supply, Safer Supply Ottawa Partners (Pathways to Recovery, Recovery Care, Ottawa Inner City Health, Respect RX Pharmacy, Somerset West Community Health Centre, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre, and Ottawa Public Health) continue to work to expand access to safer supply programming in the community. Expanding current services, safer supply initiatives seek to decrease the risk of accidental overdose and improve health by providing access to prescribed pharmaceutical opioids and further connect people who use drugs to integrated, wrap-around health, social and treatment services,” says Donna Sarrazin, Project Manager, Safer Supply Ottawa.