Harm Reduction Services and Supports
What is harm reduction?
Harm reduction is any policy, program or service that helps a person or community reduce harms related to substance use without necessarily requiring a decrease in substance use.
Harm reduction works alongside treatment, where the goal is often to decrease substance use. Prevention, treatment, and harm reduction all work together to help build healthy and safe communities.
Why harm reduction?
In Canada and PEI, drug related overdoses are on the rise. This is driven largely by fentanyl and fentanyl analogues, which have made the illicit drug supply increasingly toxic.
According to Health Canada, during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic there was a 96% increase in apparent opioid-related deaths in Canada compared to the previous year. PEI has also seen an increase in opioid-related overdoses and deaths over the same period of time.
Harm reduction services have been proven to save lives and promote both public health and public order, all while generating cost savings.
What are the benefits of harm reduction?
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);
- Cost savings (i.e., reduced health spending); and
- Most importantly, harm reduction helps people live with greater dignity and respect for their human rights.
It is important to note that Overdose Prevention Sites do not negatively impact public safety. In fact, they have public order benefits like reduced public substance use, and reduced discarded needles in public spaces.
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: Available at Needle Exchange Program sites and other locations across PEI;
- The Needle Exchange Program (Health PEI): Available in communities across PEI, offering needle exchange, safe disposal, free naloxone kits, and other supports;
- The Needle Exchange Expansion Project (P.E.E.R.S Alliance): A partnership with the Health PEI's Needle Exchange Program and the P.E.E.R.S Alliance to improve access to harm reduction supplies;
- The Native Council of PEI's Mobile Harm Reduction Team: A mobile harm reduction service for the distribution of safer use supplies and other supplies to meet basic needs.
- 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;
- Mental Health and Addictions Services (Health PEI): A network of services across PEI for needs related to mental health and substance use; and
- Sexual Health, Options & Reproductive Services: Reproductive and sexual health care for PEI residents of all genders, orientations and ages at various sites across PEI.
Harm reduction services and supports in development
The following harm reduction services and supports are currently being developed:
- An Overdose Prevention Site, to be located at 33 Belmont Street, Charlottetown. This federally approved service will save lives and promote both public health and public order;
- A drug checking service to prevent overdoses and identify high risk adulterants in the illicit drug supply, such as fentanyl;
- Interactive dispensing machines to improve access to harm reduction supplies like naloxone, sterile syringes, and HIV self-test kits; and
- Community drop boxes to improve access to safe disposal of harm reduction supplies, which will reduce the number of sharps discarded in public spaces.
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.