Overdose Outreach Teams are launching in Regina and Saskatoon to connect people who have recently experienced an overdose with programs and services. The teams are part of a pilot project to help individuals reduce their risk of overdose and other drug-related harms. 

“The Overdose Outreach Teams are an important tool to help people access supports and care that they need to start on a path of recovery and healing,” Mental Health and Addictions Minister Everett Hindley said. “Establishing these teams is part of our commitment to helping people who are living with addictions by improving access to addictions and harm reduction services.”

The Saskatchewan Health Authority (SHA) will lead the pilot with key partners, including the Saskatoon Fire Department and Regina Fire Protective Services. 

“The SHA’s Mental Health and Addictions Services clinical staff will work alongside a primary care health paramedic from the Regina Fire and Protective Services and the Saskatoon Fire Department to provide support to individuals who have recently experienced an overdose,” Executive Director of Mental Health and Addictions for SHA Integrated Urban Health Colleen Quinlan said. “We’re extremely pleased to partner with Saskatoon and Regina Fire Departments as part of this Drug Task Force initiative.” 

Overdose Outreach Teams are comprised of a mental health and addictions counsellor from the SHA and a primary care paramedic from Fire Services. They are able to provide short-term counselling while connecting individuals to other agencies for long-term needs.

Family members can refer an individual to the Overdose Outreach Team, as can police, firefighters, Emergency Medical Services and health professionals. Referrals can come from anyone, as long as the individual who experienced the overdose gives consent.

“Regina Fire and Protective Services is proud to partner with the SHA on the Overdose Outreach Team,” Regina Fire and Protective Services Fire Chief Layne Jackson said. “This program aligns with our goals to bring added value to our residents and work towards preventative and proactive approaches to community safety.”

“The Saskatoon Fire Department has witnessed first-hand the increase in medical calls related to overdoses,” Saskatoon Fire Chief Morgan Hackl said. “The proactive collaboration of the Overdose Outreach Team will be instrumental in providing coordinated support to those with addictions.” 

Overdose Outreach Teams are one of the Saskatchewan Drug Task Force’s priorities, and are part of the hot-spotting approach, a strategy to help direct resources to people at highest risk in specific geographic regions. The pilot will run until May 15 in Regina and Saskatoon.

The Drug Task Force is providing $650,000 to fund hot-spotting initiatives, which includes $250,000 for the Overdose Outreach Teams pilot project.

The Drug Task Force includes representatives from provincial government ministries, the Chief Medical Health Officer, provincial coroner, police organizations, the Saskatchewan Health Authority, and more recently, the Saskatoon Tribal Council. Its mandate is to provide strategic leadership and oversight, to improve coordination and monitoring of the province’s response to substance-related harms.

In 2022-23, the province invested a record $470 million for mental health and addiction services, including an increase of $8 million for targeted mental health and addictions initiatives providing treatment and reducing harms associated with substance use.