Health Canada announces more than $21 million to support community-based organization who are helping address harms related to substance use

Health Canada news release

Canada is in the midst of one of the most serious public health crises in our country’s history – the toxic and illegal drug and overdose crisis. No community has been left untouched. That’s why we are leveraging all the tools at our disposal to work towards an end to this national public health crisis—including prevention, harm reduction, treatment, recovery and enforcement.

Today, the Honourable Ya’ara Saks, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health, announced more than $21 million in federal funding for 52 projects through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP). With this funding, organizations will be able to increase access to much needed services for those who use drugs and help improve health outcomes for people who are at risk of experiencing substance-related harms.

Investing in programs like SUAP is a key part of the renewed Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy also released today. The renewed CDSS builds on the work, engagement and consultation since it was originally launched in 2016, including that of the Expert Task Force on Substance Use. The Government of Canada is using an integrated approach to address the overdose crisis and other substance use harms in Canada. Supporting community-based organizations across the country helps reduce stigma and meet the unique needs of the people in their communities where they are at, getting them the services and supports they need, when they need it.

The Government of Canada will continue to work with all levels of government, public health and public safety partners, social sectors, Indigenous communities, stakeholders, people with lived and living experience, and community organizations across the country to support a full range of services and improve health outcomes for all Canadians, save lives and work towards an end to this national public health crisis.  


“We recognize the tragic toll the overdose crisis and other substance use related harms are taking on families, friends and communities across Canada. Our comprehensive and compassionate approach is about reducing harms, and saving lives. We are supporting community organizations who have deep roots in their communities, have the trust of their clients and have the first-hand knowledge needed to make a real difference in people’s lives. We are using every tool at our disposal to end this crisis and build a safer, healthier and more caring future for all Canadians.“

The Honourable Ya’ara Saks
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

“As a harm reduction nurse, I understand the incredible complexities of this devastating crisis. There are multifaceted ways to approach it.  Compassionate, lifesaving interventions are not up for debate. I have seen firsthand the lifesaving impact of community-based initiatives and we must listen to the perspective of those with lived and living experience because they know best what is needed.”

Dr. Leigh Chapman
Chief Nursing Officer of Canada 

“Over the past four years, my team has observed firsthand the positive and quantifiable impact drug checking services have on responding to Canada’s toxic drug supply crisis. Drug checking can lead to behaviour change that reduces the risk of overdose, generates data that informs clinicians and care, and empowers people who use drugs to advocate for themselves and help develop solutions that impact them. This support from Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program for Toronto’s Drug Checking Service and emerging drug checking technologies, like DoseCheck, will improve access to these potentially life-saving services, promote provincial monitoring of the unregulated drug supply, and, most importantly, contribute to bettering the lives of Ontarians who use drugs.” 

Karen McDonald
Lead, Toronto’s Drug Checking Service
Director, Program Development and Operations, St. Michael’s Hospital, a site of Unity Health Toronto

“As one of the co-chairs of the expert advisory committee on substance use and mental health, I am pleased to see the reflection of the committees important work in the new Canadian Drug and Substance Strategy. Today marks another positive step forward in supporting substance use health. Ensuring a public health approach by including harm reduction as a formal aspect of community based services is absolutely going to make a difference for the health, safety and wellness of all. The renewed model for the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy conveys a vision of wholeness, a commitment to the continuity of life for all, and puts forth a good challenge for good change. I look forward to seeing how this strategy translates for equity seeking populations.”

Carol Hopkins
Co-chair of the Expert Task Force on Substance Use

“People are dying, people are suffering and we need to do more to promote substance use health. The renewed CDSS aims to decrease overdose deaths and ensure fairness in access to a full spectrum of  services, treatment and harm reduction interventions. I was proud to co-chair the Expert Task Force on Substance Use which called for greater fairness in substance use health and happy that the Government has made that a central part of the new CDSS.   Fairness is an important Canadian value.”    

Dr. Kwame McKenzie
Co-chair of the Expert Task Force on Substance Use

“As co-chair on the Health Canada Expert Task Force on Substance Use we heard of the devastating impact of the toxic illegal drug crisis in communities across Canada.  It was clear that what is needed is a comprehensive strategy that is evidence based and health focused. There is no one solution to this reverse this crisis.  Building a range of health services that are available on demand will be the foundation for addressing the harms and supporting persons who use drugs, families and communities that are so impacted.”

Mike Serr
Co-chair of the Expert Task Force on Substance Use

“This is the kind of science that saves lives. Renewing the Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy is an important step in unifying the field and coordinating a response to increasingly complex and tragic crises. An evidence-based strategy can drive collaboration across sectors to find solutions that are impactful and comprehensive.” 

Dr. Alexander Caudarella
CEO of the Canadian Centre on Substance Use and Addiction (CCSA)

Quick facts

  • Since 2017, over $500 million has been committed through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addiction Program for more than 380 projects.
  • Through SUAP, the Government of Canada provides funding to not-for-profit organizations, other levels of government, Indigenous communities, academia, and other groups for projects aiming to minimize substance use harms and improve health outcomes for Canadians. These community-led programs and projects leverage the expertise of people with lived and living experience with substance use, and/or are able to reach priority populations in Canada, such as low-income and low-education populations. 
  • Through new investments announced in Budget 2023, the Government of Canada is also proposing over $359 million, over five years, to support a renewed Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy, which will continue to guide our work to protect the health and safety of Canadians. The 2023 call for proposals stems from new investments in Budget 2023 that provided $144 million to the Substance Use and Addictions Program.
  • The Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy (CDSS) is led by Health Canada and includes 15 federal departments and agencies. It covers a broad range of legal and illegal substances, including cannabis, alcohol, opioids and other substances that may result in harms. For more information on the approach and the foundational elements visit:
  • Addiction is a treatable medical condition, not a choice—yet many people affected by addiction face stigma and feel shame. The language we use has a direct and deep impact on the people around us. 
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