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Another harm-reduction program ends in Sudbury

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A number of harm-reduction services and programs have, for one reason or another, closed in Sudbury recently.

The Sudbury Action Centre for Youth declared insolvency. At the end of March, the supervised consumption site closed. And now, a peer-run harm-reduction program run by the Reseau Access Network ended when funding ran out.

Four peer engagement workers at Reseau Access hung up their backpacks at the end of March when federal funding for Reseau’s wellness navigation program ended.

“Working in harm reduction, having that lived and living experience, is crucial because it allows us to connect with the community in ways that a lot of people say who have never used substances can’t,” said Kaela Pelland, former director of peer engagement at Reseau Access Network.

“All of the staff that were impacted by this loss are people with lived and living experience.”

The program started in 2022.

Kaela Pelland, former director of peer engagement at Reseau Access Network, say the program was making a difference because people could speak with those with similar experiences. (Alana Everson/CTV News)

“People live on the margins and how do you reach them unless you have folks that they can relate to offer their own experiences (and) create that sense of safety?” asked Heidi Eisenhauer, Reseau’s executive director.

Officials said a big part of the program was the distribution of drug testing kits, especially considering the toxic supply.

Free harm-reduction tools and first-aid instruction to help people recognize and respond to overdoses were also part of the program.

“To be able to create a safer place so that folks can share their experiences and that’s how shame is, that’s how we squash shame and that’s how we squash stigma,” said Pelland.

Pelland said the recent loss of three harm reduction and support services in Sudbury for people who use drugs is hitting hard.

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“Seeing all these services that were there to support you, like, as a person that uses drugs, and then have them all just be gone within two weeks, that causes like a moral injury for people,” said Pelland.

Pelland said in light of the recent harm-reduction service losses in the city, many people who use drugs feel they have been left to languish on their own.

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