Regina friendship centre looking for approval to run safe consumption site

A Regina friendship centre is hoping to host an in-house safe consumption site in the New Year, pending approval from the Ministry of Health.

The Nēwo Yōtina Friendship Centre submitted documents Friday looking for exemption from the province to operate as an Urgent Public Health Need Site as soon as January.

Executive Director Michael Parker says the record-high overdose numbers in the city show something needs to be done sooner rather than later.

“You can’t get treatment if you’re dead,” said Parker. “This isn’t a golden answer to the addictions and overdose crisis. This is just a way that we can take some immediate action to try and slow down the deaths and try and do something to help the situation.”

So far, there have been 122 overdose deaths in Saskatchewan this year according to the Saskatchewan Coroners Service, with 58 of those being on Regina. Most of the overdoses have involved drugs laced with fentanyl.

Regina Police say their records show far more. They say between January 1st and December 16th, there have been 1,060 overdoses in the Queen City with 106 of those being fatal.

Parker says the mental health affects of the COVID-19 pandemic have played a significant role in the number of overdoses, but it’s impossible to know exactly how many.

“Obviously, there’s a strong correlation,” said Parker. “We know that being isolated socially is not great for mental health. Mental health and addictions are related obviously. Are there other factors? Likely. I think certainly it’s a major factor.

The Friendship Centre’s proposal has garnered a letter of support from Regina Mayor Sandra Masters, as well as  Regina Police Chief Evan Bray.

Parker understands there are a lot of pre-conceived notions about safe consumption sites and wants everyone to know that their only goal is to help people overcome their addictions.

“Harm reduction is about exactly that, it’s about reducing harm,” said Parker. “It’s for folks who are already using substances and trying to do it in a way that’s safer for them and the community.”

After renovations, the proposed space would fit one staff member and two clients at once.

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