Harm Reduction Services and Supports

What is harm reduction?

Harm reduction is any evidence-informed intervention that helps reduce the risk of harms associated with a behaviour without requiring abstinence from that behaviour.

Examples include naloxone kits (substance use), condoms (sexual health), seatbelts (driving), and sunscreen (sun exposure).

Harm reduction works alongside health promotion, prevention and treatment. We need all approaches working together to help people be healthy.

Why harm reduction?

Across Canada, there have been 42,494 opioid-related overdose deaths between January 2016 and September 2023 – most of which involved fentanyl. In PEI, opioid-related overdoses are on the rise.

Highly toxic opioids like fentanyl, fentanyl analogues, and other toxic substances are circulating in PEI’s illicit drug supply. Fentanyl is 20-40 times more toxic than heroin, and 100 times more toxic than morphine. Carfentanil, a fentanyl analogue, is 100 times more toxic than fentanyl. This makes the risk of accidental overdose very high.

Harm reduction works alongside other approaches –health promotion, prevention and treatment – because:

  • A person may not be ready to make a change, and motivation is essential to treatment and recovery;
  • A person may not be practically able to make a change because their basic needs are not met (i.e., housing or food);
  • For many people in recovery, relapse is an unfortunate reality; and
  • People who use substances, but may not meet criteria for a substance use disorder, are still at risk of accidental drug-related overdoses (i.e., due to fentanyl).

Overall, harm reduction interventions have been proven to save lives, connect more people to services, reduce public substance use, and generate cost savings.

What are the benefits of harm reduction?

Evidence-informed harm reduction services and supports have many benefits:

  • Preventing drug-related overdoses and deaths;
  • Connecting more people to services (i.e., addictions and mental health, medical, housing);
  • Preventing bacterial, viral, and other infections (i.e., HIV, Hepatitis C, endocarditis, etc.);
  • Cost savings (i.e., reduced health spending); and
  • Helping people live with greater dignity and respect for their human rights.

Services such as Overdose Prevention Sites have public order benefits like reduced public substance use, and reduced discarded needles in public spaces.

More information is available on The Basics of Overdose Prevention Sites and what a Typical Visit to an Overdose Prevention Site looks like.

Currently available services and supports

Currently available harm reduction services and supports include:

  • The National Overdose Response Service (NORS) and the Brave App: Two remote (phone-based) overdose response services.  These services are confidential, non-judgmental, and available 24/7.
  • Take Home Naloxone Kits: Free naloxone kits are available at multiple locations across PEI through the Take Home Naloxone Program;
  • Drug Checking Services: This service is available through PEERS Alliance. Fentanyl test strips are also available at Health PEI Needle Exchange Program sites across PEI.
  • The Needle Exchange Program: Available in communities across PEI, offering needle exchange, safe disposal, free naloxone kits, and other supports;
  • The Substance Use Harm Reduction Drug Program: This program provides coverage to eligible PEI residents for medications for opioid use disorder and alcohol use disorder;
  • Health PEI Mental Health and Addictions Services: Available across PEI, Health PEI offers mental health and addictions services for adults, youth, and those wanting to support family members;
  • Health PEI Sexual Health, Options & Reproductive Services (SHORS): Reproductive and sexual health care for PEI residents of all genders, orientations and ages at various sites across PEI; and
  • Community drop boxes: To increase access to safe disposal of sharps and other items, supporting public health and public safety.

Harm reduction services and supports in development

The following harm reduction services and supports are currently being developed:

  • Through the Department of Health and Wellness, the Government of PEI has committed to establish an Overdose Prevention Site; and
  • Interactive dispensing machines to improve access to health supplies including naloxone kits, HIV self-test kits, and supplies for basic health and hygiene needs.

Lived and living experience engagement regarding an overdose prevention site

The Chief Public Health Office has released a report following engagement with people who have lived and living experience with substance use regarding an Overdose Prevention Site (OPS).

The report, "Safe, More Dignified, Based on My Humanity", summarizes feedback from people with lived and living experience on how best an OPS can prevent overdose deaths and help with harm reduction on PEI.

Findings from this engagement support the need for an OPS – a safer, designated space for supervised consumption and connection to services.

Proposed Park Street Expansion Information Session Report

The Department of Health and Wellness and the Department of Housing, Land and Communities released a report following a public meeting on July 19th, 2023 to discuss the proposed expansion of health and social services at the 68 Park Street property.


The report, Proposed Park Street Expansion Information Session, summarizes feedback from those in attendance.  Following the presentations, table facilitators led group discussions. Attendees were asked to discuss their questions, comments or concerns.


Published date: 
June 6, 2024