Despite the number of overdoses surging in Saskatchewan during the pandemic, the province’s only safe consumption site says it still can’t get the money they requested from the government to fully operate.
Because of the lack of cash, the Prairie Harm Reduction Safe Consumption Site (PHRSCS) in Saskatoon can only operate during office hours, Monday to Friday 10 am til 4 pm.
“Originally we put in a bid for a bunch of allotments one was for $400,000 to operate during the day, $600,000 to operate during the evening and $900,000 to operate in daytime and until midnight and $1.3 million to operate 24/7,” says Jason Mercredi, executive director of the PHRSCS.
He adds that the site is relying on additional money to extend its hours.
With no additional money the site has turned to fundraising. He says the community has really stepped up.
“We were very surprised at the response we got from the business communities and donors like overwhelming the amount of support we received so far,” Mercredi says.
APTN News contacted the government about funding the site but no one was available for an interview.
Instead, a spokesperson for the ministry of Health sent a statement.
“Prairie Harm Reduction also receives annual funding from the Ministry of Social Services for additional outreach and support programs. We understand that addressing overdoses in Saskatchewan cannot be a one-size-fits-all strategy, and that is why we continue to collaborate with stakeholders across the province,” the statement said.
Mercredi says what they do receive from the province for the Saskatoon safe consumption site is a long standing contract that provides mental health care.
He says the site is more important than ever considering the tragedy that took place this winter.
In late January 2020, Kimberly Squirrel died of an overdose near the safe consumption site.
Mercredi says it’s people like Squirrel that they are trying to save.
“I think sometimes people forget that there’s names with these overdose numbers you know. Kimberly should still be here today, it’s incredibly frustrating,” says Mercredi and adds that if they were operating 24/7 they could have saved her life.
“You know if we had provincial funding it’s tough to argue that she wouldn’t be alive today, she died 600 metres roughly from our building.”
Next week Prairie Harm Reduction will look at the amount of donations they received recently and will be able to determine if they can extend hours based on the donations.
Some of the donations included $10,000 from popcorn sales from the Broadway Theatre, a $10,000 donation from COOP and $20,000 from the Gordon and Jill Rawlinson.
Prairie Harm Reduction has a clothing line on their website to help with fundraising. The website also has information on how people can make donations.