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ID: HR23-382
Presenting author: Patrick McDougall

Presenting author biography:

Patrick McDougall is the Director of Knowledge Translation and Evaluation at Vancouver’s Dr. Peter Centre, an integrated care centre for individuals living with HIV and complex health issues. The Centre integrated supervised injection services in 2002, and Patrick has supported capacity building for organizations enhancing their harm reduction services.

Scaling Up Supervised Consumption and Overdose Prevention Services: A Response to Canada’s Drug Poisoning Crisis

Patrick McDougall, Nabila Basri, Savannah Swann, Courtney Pankratz, Seff Pinch, Scott Elliott, Clem Fong
Issue: Canada has been experiencing an overdose or drug poisoning crisis since 2015. When the crisis hit, the country had limited harm reduction services due to active opposition to harm reduction by the Conservative federal government, which was in power from 2006-2015. Harm reduction services slowly started expanding in 2017, but there was a marked lack of models or support for these emerging services.

Setting: The Dr. Peter Centre (DPC) in Vancouver, Canada has been providing a key harm reduction service – supervised consumption services – since 2002. Though officially unsanctioned by the federal government until 2016, the DPC’s service was sanctioned by local government. For many years, the DPC provided informal guidance to organizations wanting to start supervised consumption sites and overdose prevention sites (SCS/OPS).

Project: In 2017, the DPC received funding from the federal government to formally support organizations starting SCS/OPS. This support consisted of virtual and in-person capacity-building training, experiential learning opportunities, communities of practice, and issue-specific working groups. This evolved into a network of over 600 people working towards expanding the number of SCS/OPS, as well as the breadth of their services.

Outcomes: Over the 5-year project, Canada expanded from 10 SCS/OPS, all located in Vancouver, to over 150 sites nationally. Our project played a key role in that expansion. Despite this success, our project also uncovered gaps where key communities are being left out of services, including Indigenous communities, African, Caribbean, and Black communities, rural and remote communities, and women and gender-diverse communities. Many services also lack culturally responsive modes of service provision that reflect the reality of drug use culture, making them inaccessible. This presentation will share key project findings, namely the need for meaningful engagement of people who use drugs and other targeted solutions to complex and urgent issues within the sector.