The province is seeing changes to supplies that were previously provided for illicit drug use under the Government of Saskatchewan’s Action Plan for Mental Health and Addictions.
Pipes that could be used for smoking crack cocaine or methamphetamine will no longer be provided, and needles provided for individuals using intravenous drugs will now need to be exchanged on a one-to-one basis.
“We’ve seen needle exchanges drift away from operating on an exchange basis more towards a distribution model, and that was not an authorized shift,” said Tim McLeod, Minister for Mental Health and Addictions.
“We recognize that it really failed to respect the needs of communities. We’re simply insisting that providers return to the original intent of the needle exchange, which ensures we’re getting back the used needles, so that less of them are littered in our communities and otherwise improperly disposed of.”
Intravenous drug use and sharing needles can be a risk factor for contracting Hepatitis C and HIV. Hepatitis C surveillance data from 2021 showed Saskatchewan had 38.3 new reported cases per 100,000 population, versus the national rate of 19.7 new cases per 100,000. HIV surveillance data from 2022 showed Saskatchewan had 19.0 new cases per 100,000 population, versus the national rate of 4.7 new cases per 100,000 population.
McLeod was asked if he was concerned that the move to an exchange model might lead people to keep needles for a longer period and share them.
“What we’re doing as part of this announcement as well – that can’t be understated – is we’re also increasing the number of contact points that we have with individuals who are battling addiction in the communities.”
“We’re funding community wellness stands and community wellnesses buses to go out into the communities to find these individuals where they are, meeting where they’re at, and providing them with primary health care.”
There is no specific list of communities for the wellness buses, but McLeod says they are actively working on this initiative.
Naloxone kits to reverse overdoses will also continue to be provided free of charge across the province.