Nova Scotia

$500K announced for fight against opioid overdose deaths in Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia's health authority is spending $500,000 to support overdose prevention sites as part of the battle against opioid addiction in the province.

Safe injection site in the province to receive funding; N.S. to seek proposals for more sites

The Brunswick Street Mission in Halifax houses the overdose prevention site ReFix. The site is located on the lower level, accessed through a Barrington Street entrance. (Haley Ryan/CBC)

The Nova Scotia government has announced $500,000 to support overdose prevention sites as part of the battle against opioid addiction in the province.

The sites allow drug users to inject drugs in a supervised, safer environment. On-site staff provide fresh needles and connect clients to treatment programs and other services. 

"Every overdose death is a tragedy," Health Minister Leo Glavine said in a news release Friday.

"This investment will provide a place for people to use substances in a way that is safer for them and the surrounding community."

Staff can also respond to overdoses by administering naloxone, a drug that counters the effects of opioids and buys time for emergency responders to arrive.

Sara Wuite, a health protection officer in charge of harm reduction with Nova Scotia Health, said that is important given rising rates of illegal drug contamination by tiny, lethal amounts of opioids such as fentanyl.

"It makes me scared for the people we care for in the community, and that's why these sites are so important," she said. 

Just 1 supervised injection site in N.S.

There is only one supervised injection site in Nova Scotia, called ReFix, which operates on Brunswick Street in Halifax. That organization will receive one-time bridge funding for six months. 

The government said in the release that a request for proposals to establish new supervised injection sites in the Halifax and Sydney areas is expected to be issued later this year. The province said ReFix will be able to apply for additional funding at that time. 

Wuite said the health authority wants to begin by looking at more densely populated areas and sites people can access by transit or on foot.

"We're happy because we are opening these caring spaces where people who use drugs and who use substances can be cared for," she said.

The funding comes from Gambling Awareness Nova Scotia, which receives a portion of revenues from the province's VLT machines.