A new mobile overdose prevention site is set to circulate on the streets of Winnipeg this summer, after the drop-in centre Sunshine House received a federal grant to fund the program.
During the official unveiling of the mobile home purchased to use as the overdose prevention site, executive director of Sunshine House Levi Foy said that the organization hopes to launch the mobile site in August and be fully operational by the end of the month.
The federal government has contributed $384,000 through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program, while Winnipeg Centre MP Leah Gazan played a key role in securing the funding for the project.
“This life-saving program will allow Sunshine House to continue providing critical harm reduction services and expand their ability to safely and accessibly meet the needs of community members,” said Gazan said in a news release. “This is long overdue in Winnipeg Centre, and I couldn’t be happier that Sunshine House is leading this initiative in partnership with the community.”
Foy added that the mobile overdose prevention site is the first of its kind in Manitoba. “We act as an immediate response to save lives and those events,” Foy said. “But a lot of the time, we’re just an extra level of safety and comfort for those who visit. We aren’t experts, we aren’t medical professionals, but we’re going to do our best.”
According to data released by the Manitoba Harm Reduction Network (MHRN), in 2020, there were about 200 deaths in Manitoba due to drug poisoning.
However, the number of overdose deaths in the province doubled in 2021 to 407 deaths, and is projected to break previous records in 2022.
Accordingly, community services and organizations have urged the government to implement harm reduction services, said Jonny Mexico.
“Those are 407 children, those are kids of people, those are aunties, those are uncles, those are mothers, those are fathers, those are brothers and sisters. Those are all people, and they are missed deeply by the folks who love and care for them,” he said in his interview with CBC News.
NDP MLA Uzoma Asagwara spoke at a fundraiser for Sunshine House, urging the provincial government to do more to support harm reduction, highlighting the lack of provincial funding for Sunshine House’s overdose prevention RV.
“It’s sending a very clear message to all levels of government that this kind of effort needs to be funded, needs to be funded sustainably and needs to be happening at a grassroots level,” Asagwara said.
Currently, the Health Canada website states that supervised consumption sites provide a safe, clean space for people to use drugs, help prevent accidental overdoses and reduce the spread of infectious diseases, including HIV.