Opioid harm reduction pilot recommended for Hamilton


Published January 15, 2024 at 2:25 pm

Lethal doses of Heroin, fentanyl and carfentanil. - via the CBP

A newly released report recommends Hamilton start a $600,000-plus opioid harm reduction pilot project “to mitigate the harms attributed to an increasingly toxic and unpredictable illegal drug supply,” with the pilot targeting the city’s men’s shelter system.

The City has been working on a Hamilton Opioid Action Plan since last year and opened a call for applicants last fall. The Good Shepherd Centre Hamilton, Mission Services of Hamilton Inc, and The Governing Council of The Salvation Army collectively applied to run “embedded harm reduction supports.”

The plan was for these applicants to operate a supervised consumption site at a Hamilton men’s shelter. While no one came forward to apply to run this site initially, the city worked with the partners to change course and create the current project. “Although not a supervised consumption site, [the project] represents a significant step-forward in responding to the opioid crisis in this high-risk setting.”

The new plan, presented in the Jan. 15 Public Health Committee meeting, is to provide support for clients through;

  • referrals and advocacy,
  • community accompaniments,
  • harm reduction drop-in groups,
  • hands-on support during an overdose event,
  • Increased capacity of front-facing staff,
  • Increased capacity of the general system

The report notes Hamilton is struggling with a “significant burden” of opioid use which particularly impacts men. Of all suspected opioid overdose deaths, 72 per cent were men and 73 per cent were between 30 and 59 years old. This has largely remained the case for several years and reflects Ontario-wide trends.

Hamilton has found a gap in services for the men using opioids and those who are engaged with the city’s social services. “There is a significant rate of opioid use among men engaging with this system,” the noted, but there is a “low proportion of opioid-related overdose” with those who use the system.

Following the initial application call, consultations with service providers revealed that limited resources would make it difficult tom provide the serves being asked. “The emergency shelter system continues to experience resource constraints and is pressured to operate a shelter system and to respond to the homelessness crisis with existing resources. Resources are not available to plan and implement a further undertaking,” officials were told.

The report declared the pilot program can be a good temporary measure going forward. “It serves the target population, single men, and is within the proposed setting, men’s emergency shelters. This approach has shown positive results in several local agency settings, and this will be a system-wide pilot program,” the city described.

The pilot will embed harm-reduction experts, including qualified addiction specialists, peer support workers and individuals with lived experience in Hamilton’s men’s shelters. This will allow the shelters to better “support clients and build capacity within shelter staffing, as well as the individual themselves, and create a wider community of practice related to harm reduction and general substance use,” per the city.



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