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‘A heroic effort that went unrecognized’: Harm reduction workers facing their own burnout

From the Healthy Debate article

The “shadow epidemic” lurking in the COVID-19 background is leaving another group of front-line workers battered and bruised. And Ontario’s opioid crisis is expected to get worse over the next six months, according to the latest data.

But unlike mainstream health-care providers, harm reduction workers do not have benefits like danger pay or strong unions to support them. With jobs characterized by low wages, stigma and political red-tape, overworked harm reduction professionals are seeing burnout on the front lines.

“I have watched harm reduction workers over the past two years, from the first wave, where they really quickly pivoted because they realized if supervised consumption sites closed, tons of people who were relying on their services would die,” says Gillian Kolla, postdoctoral fellow at the MAP Centre for Urban Health Solutions at St. Michael’s Hospital. “They literally moved mountains heroically from day to day, to still provide services in the midst of COVID. They did this with zero funding, they did this by begging and borrowing (personal protective equipment) in the initial wave. It was an absolutely heroic effort that went largely unrecognized.”

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