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Supervised Consumption Services

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What are Supervised Consumption Services? (SCS)

Supervised Consumption Services are health service facilities wherein a person can consume illicit substances, which they have pre-obtained, in a hygienic safe space. Sterile supplies are provided and trained professionals supervise all consumption. By providing SCS, healthcare providers are given an opportunity to connect individuals to various health and community services.

To legally operate a site, an application has to be made to Health Canada for an exemption under the Controlled Drug and Substance Act. This exemption allows for the possession and consumption of controlled substances within a SCS. Selling/buying, trading or sharing substances is prohibited.

In 2003, Vancouver’s Insite became Canada’s first legally approved SCS, known then as a Safe Injection Site.  There are now more then 27 approved sites in Canada, 6 of these sites are located in Alberta. To find out which cities are offering SCS click here

For more information on Supervised Consumption Services please see Health Canada’s webpage

For information on more then 100 sites world wide please click here




Why are Supervised Consumption Services Needed?

Medical professionals within a SCS are vigilant and ready to respond during a medical emergency or an overdose. According to the Opioids and Substances of Misuse, Alberta Report, in 2017 there were 733 opioid poisoning overdoses in Alberta, the equivalent of 2 people per day. The same year, Grande Prairie had the highest rate of apparent accidental fentanyl poisoning deaths at 33.8 per 100,000 person years ( 28 deaths related to fentanyl and 3 related to other opioids).See the report here 


 Supervised consumption services:

  •  Save lives by responding to overdoses
  • Increases referrals to detoxification and treatment
  • Increases access to Naloxone
  • Decreases needles and debris discarded in public areas.
  • Decreases public substance consumption
  • Biohazards are taken to waste management facilities
  • Deceases health care spending by: Decreasing risks of skin infections, blood clots, and heart infections related to reusing needles.
  • Decreases needle sharing thus decreasing HIV and Hepatitis C rates


One study revealed that if Vancouver’s SCS were closed,  the number of annual HIV infections among intravenous substance consumers in Vancouver would be expected to rise from 179.3 to 262.8. The increase of 83.5 preventable infections has a cost association of $17.6 million in  life-time HIV-related medical care costs. Other studies on Insite showed:

  • 30% of individuals accessing Insite reported entering a detoxification program;
  • 57% started a substance treatment program;
  • 23% stopped injecting substances.


HIV North’s Role

HIV North is Grande Prairie’s primary harm reduction agency, focusing on the prevention of sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBIs) through the distribution of sterile injection equipment and safer sex supplies. Programs and services address the Social Determinants of Health through the provision of wrap-around supports focusing on increasing the health and well-being of Northern Alberta residents. Harm reduction remains the foundation of our services.

HIV North acknowledges Supervised Consumption Services (SCS) to be a complementary and necessary support that has the potential to save lives while increasing the health and well being of service participants.  As such, we at HIV North and the Grande Prairie Supervised Consumption Coalition are excited to be working with Alberta Health to determine how Supervised Consumption Services could be implemented in Grande Prairie.


Programs offered by HIV North Society include:

HIV North provides wrap around services to the city’s most marginalized populations. As such, professional working relationships have been developed with individuals who consume substances and agencies that provide street level supports. Some of the services offered by HIV North include:

  • Community Wellness Program:Partnered with ACT Medical.
  • Educator
  • Healthcare Navigator
  • LGBTQ Youth Mentor
  • Street Outreach
  • Permanent Supportive Housing
  • Indigenous Opioid Response
  • Take Home Naloxone program
  • Overdose Prevention Program


The Need in Grande Prairie

Grande Prairie has the highest fentanyl and non-fentanyl opioid poisoning overdose death rates in Alberta (2017).  From June to August 2017, HIV North conducted 200 research surveys with individuals who consume substances in Grande Prairie. The results of the survey indicated that:

  • 75% of individuals reported injecting in public
  • 52% reported witnessing needle sharing
  • 34% reported having difficulty obtaining new needles
  • 19% reported the operation hours of needle distribution programs as a key barrier.
  • 75% of those consuming substances by injection and 61% of those consuming by nasal routes would use a SCS
  • Respondents reported unsafely discarding their needles about 34% of the time.
  • 61.5 of individuals consume substances 4 or more times a week



What is being proposed?

Through the needs assessment and consultations with local stakeholders, HIV North determined that Supervised Consumption Services are needed in Grande Prairie.  HIV North is proposing a mobile model to meet the immediate needs of those who consume substances. The Mobile Supervised Consumption Service (MSCS) will provide supervision through the consumption process and medical interventions as necessary.

Participants accessing the MSCS will be supported onsite by a nurse and a harm reductionist. Each participant will be provided sterile safer consumption supplies and have an opportunity to discuss any concerns related to their substance consumption or health matters. Post-consumption, participants will be directed to the post-consumption area, a “chill space” where they will be monitored for adverse reactions.

Referrals will be made to HIV Norths Street Outreach Team for immediate after hours support. For less urgent matters individuals will be referred to HIV North Society’s main office for connection to one of the HIV North supportive programs or to community agencies as appropriate for the individuals needs.