Province Realigns Health System Approach to Illicit Drug Use Issues

Released on January 18, 2024

Under the new Action Plan for Mental Health and Addictions, the Government of Saskatchewan is focused on getting more people the treatment they need to overcome addictions and live healthy, safe lives in recovery. As part of the transition to a Recovery-Oriented System of Care, changes are being made to how the health care system responds to illicit drug use issues.

The provision of pipes for smoking methamphetamine, crack cocaine and other illicit drugs will be discontinued. The practice of providing materials with instructions on how to use illicit drugs will also be discontinued. No third-party organization will be permitted to use funding provided by the Ministry of Health or the Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) for these purposes.

“Providing taxpayer-funded pipes for smoking illicit drugs and instructions for how to use them sends the wrong message to people who we want to help,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Tim McLeod said. “Instead, the message coming from the health care system should be that there is hope for recovery, and there is help available through treatment.”

Announced in Fall 2023, Saskatchewan’s new Action Plan for Mental Health and Addictions will add at least 500 more addictions treatment spaces to the publicly funded health care system to double capacity for treatment. A total of 168 treatment spaces have been announced so far, including 26 post-treatment spaces at St. Joseph's Addiction Recovery Centre in Estevan, 32 intensive outpatient treatment spaces through Possibilities Recovery Centre in Saskatoon, 36 virtual treatment spaces through EHN Canada, 14 inpatient treatment spaces at the former Drumming Hill Youth Centre facility in North Battleford, and 60 inpatient treatment spaces through EHN Canada near Lumsden, close to Regina. Work is also underway to implement a central intake system to make treatment more easily accessible to people when they need it.

“The goal of the health care system should always be getting people the treatment they need to overcome addictions and live healthy, safe lives in recovery,” McLeod said. “How the health care system responds to people who have yet to walk the path to recovery needs to strike a balance with public safety priorities.”

Consistent with public safety priorities, naloxone will continue to be provided for free through the Take Home Naloxone program. Since it was introduced in 2015, over 40,000 people have been trained to use naloxone and nearly 10,000 overdoses have been reversed by members of the public with naloxone provided by the program. Take Home Naloxone kits are available free of charge at over 400 locations across Saskatchewan, with more locations to come.

To assist law enforcement and the health care system with monitoring the toxicity of illicit drugs, and to help users better understand the risks associated with illicit drugs, test strips for fentanyl and benzodiazepine contamination will also continue to be available. The use of drug checking infrared spectrometres will also continue for the same purpose. A new Provincial Drug Alert System was recently launched to further enhance these efforts. The goal of drug alerts is to increase awareness of the dangers associated with illicit drugs and the presence of other toxic substances that further increase the risk of overdose and death.

To strike a balance with public safety priorities, needle exchanges will be required to operate on an exchange basis. Getting back used needles that can be littered in communities or otherwise improperly disposed of is a core purpose of needle exchanges. The other core purpose is to reduce the spread of bloodborne illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis C to avoid pressure on the health care system that can result from the spread of bloodborne illnesses.

To support people struggling with addictions and other at-risk individuals in the community, new Community Wellness Buses are planned for 2024 with a mandate to provide primary health care services, assistance with accessing services and supports, and referrals for other services that they may need.

Changes throughout the health care system are effective immediately. Savings that result will be redirected to enhancing needle pickup services. Needle exchanges will be required to provide this service in the communities in which they operate.


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Media Relations
Phone: 306-787-4083