‘this program’s really saved us’: as canada offers safer opioids to curb overdoses, will U.S. follow? - september 2022
photos by laura proctor for stat news
words by andrew joseph
The Finks, married just a month earlier, sat down for their appointment, Kim dressed in head-to-toe pink and Chris in all black. He was taciturn, while she joked she couldn’t stop talking long enough to have her blood pressure taken.
Jouvence Tshiyoyo Bukumba, a nurse, asked Kim, 46, about her cardiology appointment and Chris, 54, about his nerve pain. Then came “the SOS questions” — safer opioid supply. How were their doses? Did they feel any cravings or withdrawal?
The Finks are participants in a program at the frontiers of the desperate attempts to reduce never-before-seen levels of overdose deaths. Here at the light-filled Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, clients like the Finks receive prescriptions for government-funded, pharmaceutical-grade opioids they can use to feel the euphoric hit provided by drugs or at least ward off withdrawal, instead of having to rely on street drugs. The program, called safer supply, is part of an expanding movement in Canada to counter the increasingly treacherous drug supply.
“This program’s really saved us,” Kim said.