Newo Yotina Friendship Centre approved as safe consumption site

Naloxone kit with syringe Wikipedia Commons

Only the second site in the province.

The Newo Yotina Friendship Centre, located on the corner of Osler Street and 11th Avenue in Regina, has been given preliminary approval to become a new temporary safe consumption site within the province in the coming weeks.

As it currently stands, Prairie Harm Reduction (formerly Aids Saskatoon) is the only site in Saskatchewan for safe consumption.

The site comes during an overdose epidemic in the province. According the Coroner’s Report for 2020 in Saskatchewan, there were around 170 confirmed drug toxicity deaths last year and up to around 350 suspected.

The Newo Yotina Friendship Centre will track usage numbers as long as the site is active, hoping to use the gathered data as a means of showing the positive results of the site.

Via the Leader Post, Executive Director of the Friendship Centre, Michael Parker, commented on the current issue and the approval/backing from the city and police.

“There’s always people who don’t want things in their backyard, and so to have support from these key figures within the city, it means a lot,”  Parker said. “We know that folks have our back, and we can just focus on what we know needs to happen. The number of deaths has not slowed down in 2021. It’s continuing on the same trend, even through COVID, which is a startling increase.”

In the same article, Parker also described the site and its operations.

“The purpose is not to encourage use – that’s not the point of it,” Parker said. “It’s about safety and trying to reduce the harm and potential risk so that people can at some point access the services that they need.”

In December of 2020, Executive Director of Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR), Jason Mercredi, shared his thoughts with the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix after the site’s opening.       

“It’s a start. It’s not perfect. Ideally, we’d be open a lot longer and be able to serve a lot more people,” Mercredi said. “But it feels good. It’s a weight off all our shoulders.” On both accounts, from Parker and Mercredi, the opening of the sites is a step forward, but not an end all for the issues that Saskatchewan faces.

Prairie Harm Reduction, like the Newo Yotina Friendship Centre, has an unclear future as a site and may be only temporary due to funding issues.

On top of monitoring safe consumption, these sites also deal with issues such as needle sharing and proper needle disposal. They also help to deal with addictions and the mental health issues associated with drug use.

As things currently stand, there are around 70 confirmed and suspected deaths that Saskatchewan faces from drug toxicity in 2021.

The lack of resources available to those that need them is an issue that more and more individuals are becoming aware of as the numbers of drug toxicity fatalities paint a clearer picture in the province.

Moving forward, although these steps are in the right direction, it is still uncertain where Saskatchewan will find itself in the coming months.

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