Surviving overdose could depend on location, says national harm reduction advocate

A national harm reduction advocate says a person's chances of surviving an overdose may depend on where they live in Canada.

Jordan Westfall of the Canadian Association of People Who Use Drugs says services like supervised consumption sites, which allow people to use drugs under medical supervision, have saved lives in places like Vancouver, but there's no access to such services in vast parts of the country.

Health Canada says there are 27 supervised consumption sites spread across British Columbia, Ontario, Alberta and Quebec.

But Rebecca Jesseman of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction says there are some good reasons for the variation.

She says the opioid crisis is more pronounced in those four provinces, while the central provinces of Manitoba and Saskatchewan are more concerned with fighting methamphetamine use.

Beyond geography, Jesseman says there are still gaps in overdose prevention services that fail to meet the needs of some individuals, especially relating to language, gender, age and culture.

The Public Health Agency of Canada says opioids killed an estimated nine-thousand people between January 2016 and June 2018, and about 94 per cent of those deaths were deemed accidental.