U of R and AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan launch project to address overdose deaths

The most recent Saskatchewan Coroners’ Report noted 92 confirmed and 199 suspected drug toxicity deaths in the province as of August 1.

A collaborative project between the University of Regina and AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan Inc. (APSS) aims to change the statistics and the lives of the people behind them.

“Project Reportneedles.ca” will map discarded needles in public places and offer targeted support, such as naloxone training and recovery options in areas with high needle use.

Dr. Andrew Eaton, assistant professor in the University of Regina’s Faculty of Social Work, is the principal investigator on this two-year project funded by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF).

“The goal of this work is to introduce effective harm reduction strategies into Regina communities,” Eaton says. “By targeting hotspot areas, we expect to be able to reduce the number of drug-related deaths and encourage safer needle use.”

Developed by APSS, the web application reportneedles.ca will allow anyone who finds used needles on the ground to input their location.

APSS staff will collect the information, and the research team will then use the data to determine hotspot areas where discarded needles in public spaces are the highest and increase harm reduction support to those areas.

The team will then train 50 Regina residents who use drugs in administering naloxone and in peer support.

“We will provide information about overdose risk factors and symptoms and safer use behaviour,” Eaton says. “When people who use drugs can discuss substance use with their peers in a facilitated space that includes education and therapy, it can be an effective way to reduce overdoses.”

Shiny Mary Varghese, the Executive Director of APSS, will co-lead the project with Eaton and says she is excited about the collaborative project.

“This will allow us to accurately focus harm reduction interventions to maximize efficiency and impact by empowering the target population with harm reduction knowledge, naloxone training, substitution therapies, recovery options, community referrals, and resources to reduce the drug toxicity hospitalizations and deaths in Regina,” says Varghese. “Through this project, the team seeks to make a profound difference in the lives of people dealing with substance use disorders.”

Once done evaluating the program, the team plans to share their results so other places can adapt and implement the tools.

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