UBC Faculty Research and Publications

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on access to supervised consumption programs Gubskaya, Emili; Kennedy, Mary Clare; Hayashi, Kanna; Cui, Zishan; Milloy, M-J; Kerr, Thomas


Background: Supervised consumption sites (SCS) and overdose prevention sites (OPS) have been increasingly implemented in response to the ongoing overdose epidemic in Canada. Although there has been a dramatic increase in overdose deaths since the start of the SARS-CoV 2 (COVID-19) pandemic, little is known about how SCS access may have been affected by this pandemic. Therefore, we sought to characterize potential changes in access to SCS during the COVID-19 pandemic among people who use drugs (PWUD) in Vancouver, Canada. Methods: Between June and December 2020, data were collected through the Vancouver Injection Drug Users Study (VIDUS) and the AIDS Care Cohort to Evaluate Exposure to Survival Services (ACCESS), two cohort studies involving people who use drugs. Multivariable logistic regression was used to examine individual, social and structural factors associated with self-reported reduced frequency of SCS/OPS use since COVID-19. Results: Among 428 participants, 223 (54.7%) self-identified as male. Among all individuals surveyed, 63 (14.8%) reported a decreased frequency of use of SCS/OPS since COVID-19. However, 281 (66%) reported that they “did not want to” access SCS in the last 6 months. In multivariable analyses, younger age, self-reported fentanyl contamination of drugs used and reduced ease of access to SCS/OPS since COVID-19 were positively associated with a decreased frequency of use of SCS/OPS since COVID-19 (all p < 0.05). Conclusions: Approximately 15% of PWUD who accessed SCS/OPS reported reduced use of these programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, including those at heightened risk of overdose due to fentanyl exposure. Given the ongoing overdose epidemic, efforts must be made to remove barriers to SCS access throughout public health crises.

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