The Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres (OFIFC) has launched a new harm reduction toolkit to address the growing opioid crisis in urban Indigenous communities.
The advocate for all 29 friendship centres in the province says some communities in urban settings are also dealing with rapidly increasing HIV infections which are largely attributed to needle sharing and a limited availability of harm reduction and treatment services, according to a news release issued Tuesday.
“Across the province we’re seeing the growing impacts of the opioid crisis,” said OFIFC chief engagement officer Suze Morrison. “We’re seeing that it specifically hit Indigenous communities and urban Indigenous communities in a disproportionate way, and particularly throughout COVID we’ve been seeing a substantial increase in the rates of overdoses, in the rates of infection and illness from harm caused by drug use.
“This initiative really came out of a growing community need to recognize that this is a growing pandemic across Ontario, and that we needed Indigenous-specific resources for frontline workers serving urban Indigenous communities to reduce harm in as many ways as possible.”
The 84-page harm reduction toolkit offers users a history of harm reduction in Canada, an overview of infections and Indigenous-specific approaches to harm reduction.
Morrison says the document was informed by dialogue with friendship centres across Ontario during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is something that has been coming up consistently in terms of the need for friendship centres to respond to the growing opioid crisis in their communities,” she said. “They’re really feeling the crisis on their doorsteps.”
All of OFIFC’s member friendship centres offer a combination of mental health and addictions programming, and coordinate services with other community service providers where available.
The harm reduction toolkit can be found on the OFIFC website.