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VANCOUVER, BC – The Dr. Peter Centre is creating a Community of Practice Hub for frontline service providers, health care professionals, and policymakers with the goal of building capacity within emergency shelters where people may need to use drugs and/or Urgent Public Health Need Sites (also known as Overdose Prevention Sites).

Funded by Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP), the need for the program comes on the heels of nation-wide communities moving people experiencing homelessness into temporary housing, in an effort to prevent the spread of COVID-19 amongst an already-vulnerable population.

Starting this June, individuals and organizations operating emergency shelters or Urgent Public Health Needs Sites will be able to turn to the new community and healthcare partnership, which includes videoconferencing, website access, and direct training sessions, for evidence-informed practices in responding to the needs of people who use substances in these environments.

The Honourable Patty Hadju, Minister of Health, said: “Community-based expertise and collaboration are key to supporting people who use drugs and their communities, and this is even more critical in the context of the pandemic. The Government of Canada’s support for this project is another example of its commitment to helping ensure that service providers in communities across Canada have the tools they need to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and help vulnerable populations.”

The capacity building initiative will be national in reach in both English and French. It will give frontline workers the ability to ask procedural and best-practice questions and access training from experienced professionals.

“Increased overdose deaths in Vancouver prompted the Dr. Peter Centre to use funds from Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) to create the Community of Practice Hub. This will allow for the sharing of knowledge within the health and housing communities, which can then be used by frontline service providers and organizations to ensure effective protection for and harm reduction to persons who use drugs and/or are experiencing homelessness,” explained Dr. Hedy Fry, Member of Parliament for Vancouver Centre.

Health Canada is supporting the Dr. Peter Centre for the Centre’s first-in-North America supervised injection site experience, and its subsequent learning and teaching. The Dr. Peter Centre is positioned as a strong facilitator of knowledge exchange thanks to ongoing work with federal projects focused on harm reduction and increasing services for people who use drugs.

Says Scott Elliott, Executive Director of the Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation: “We’re excited to take on this new role and share knowledge and skills with frontline service providers across Canada. We hope that our experience in this field will be an asset to everyone involved and will ultimately have an important role to play in helping to meet the care needs of people who use substances.”

Both the videoconference calls and website will be active by late-June and subsequent training for frontline providers will occur at regular intervals over the next year. For more information about the program, please visit:


About the Dr. Peter Centre:
The Dr. Peter Centre is a HIV health care facility located in Vancouver, BC, and provides comprehensive, stigma-free care for our most frail and vulnerable citizens. An aspect of the Centre’s vision is the sharing of knowledge to bring about larger change to complex HIV care, and harm reduction practices in communities across Canada and around the world.

Media contact:
Dr. Peter AIDS Foundation

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