Thanks to those who have participated in PAN’s safe supply surveys! In this blog post, we share a few insights we learned from your responses to the 2nd installment of this survey.
As you might recall, PAN’s safe supply survey was first distributed in July – August 2020. Our aim was to gather input on the rollout of the BC Government’s Clinical Guidance on Safe Supply/Risk Mitigation across the province, particularly looking to learn about the impact and experiences of PAN’s member organizations. We have reported findings from the first round of the survey here.
PAN committed to repeating this survey on an ongoing basis to help track changes over time, and capture ways that PAN may be able to support our members’ work and advocacy around safe supply. As such, we launched the 2nd round of the safe supply survey on November 10th, 2020.
- By the end of December 10th,
we were able to hear from 24 stakeholders across BC, most of whom held program management, coordinator, program director, harm reduction or outreach worker positions.
- Most of the stakeholders we heard from reported being physically located in small and rural localities within the Northern Health region.
- The geographic distribution of most survey respondents might indicate a particular interest and pressing need in better understanding and supporting the rollout of the safe supply guidance in rural and remote communities in BC.
On the whole, many of the trends and themes we heard during this 2nd survey installment echoed those we found during the 1st survey.
- Most survey respondents reported an increase in their own and their clients’ knowledge about the roll-out of the Clinical Guidance on safe supply in the previous three months
- About half of respondents reported a slight or significant increase in their clients’ requests for safe supply in the previous three months
- But most respondents consistently reported that their clients’ ability to access safe supply remains challenging
- Six months into the rollout of safe supply, a majority of survey respondents continued to describe the number of prescribers as “few” and that the number of prescribers in communities had remained the same in the previous three months
When asked about successes for organizations and clients’ lives, survey respondents identified two key successes from the safe supply rollout in the previous three months:
- Getting people connected to safe supply
- Being able to set-up access points for safe supply and advocate for this option to become available in local communities
Survey respondents also reported key challenges faced in the previous three months, including the following:
- Prescribers’ reluctance to actually prescribe safe supply
- A limited prescribing scope (e.g., OAT allowed, but not stimulants, and lack of options for safe supply)
- The fear that safe supply will be limited to a COVID-19 timeframe
Survey responses indicate that prescribers’ reluctance to prescribe safe supply is a key structural barrier facing the successful rollout. Discretionary and inconsistent prescribing practices were reported by survey respondents, and some of them would appear to stem partially from prescribers’ personal opinions and attitudes on safe supply. A clear and consistent theme in survey responses refers to the social determinants of health (e.g., societal stigma and discrimination, precarious housing and homelessness, co-infections and co-morbidities, unsafe healthcare system) facing many of the people who want or would benefit from accessing safe supply.
Lastly, survey respondents identified a few areas for improvement and support needed as the rollout of safe supply continues, including:
- The need for co-location of safe supply and other health and social services
- The need for developing guidelines that are specific to organizations engaged in safe supply work and for risk mitigation policies and access to be consistent across the province
- The need to continue addressing other social, health, and health-system issues alongside safe supply provision, or risk the reinforcing of the systemic barriers already faced by those who want or would benefit from accessing safe supply
- Peer-led initiatives can be a way to facilitate safe supply rollout, but a wide-range of supports (e.g., training, compensation, health) must be ensured
- The need to develop and provide training and education, in particular for members of organizations doing safe supply work, clients receiving safe supply, and providers prescribing safe supply
- The need for PAN to continue engaging in advocacy work with policy and decision-makers concerning safe supply
Now in 2021, it is expected that the government will continue revisiting some of the details outlined in the guidance. Our findings indicate that understanding and engagement with the specific needs and challenges faced by small and rural Northern communities should remain a priority as the safe supply guidance is further adapted. Responses and adaptations stemming from large, urban settings may not be applicable for small and rural communities in BC, and we hope that the findings from PAN’s 1st and 2nd surveys can inform these ongoing developments. PAN continues to use the findings from these surveys in our advocacy work and while engaging the new and returning Ministers and officials within the BC government.
Once more, thank you for your participation and feedback on these surveys! The next iteration of the survey will be set to launch this spring.
Questions? Comments? Get in touch.
Jennifer (Evin) Jones, Executive Director, [email protected]