Government of Canada provides funding to support people who use substances in Nova Scotia

Press Release

From: Health Canada

Improving health outcomes for people at risk of substance use harms and overdose

March 16, 2022 | Halifax, Nova Scotia | Health Canada

The opioid overdose crisis is a serious public health crisis that has taken a tragic toll on families, friends and communities across the country. The recent data on opioid overdose deaths confirms the negative effect COVID-19 has had on the overdose crisis, with many jurisdictions reporting record high rates of harms, including deaths, throughout 2020, 2021 and now into 2022. In the first half of 2021, 23 people died of opioid overdose in Nova Scotia. The Government of Canada is committed to ensuring that all Canadians have access to the life-saving substance use services and supports they need.

Today, the Honourable Carolyn Bennett, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, and Associate Minister of Health, announced federal funding through Health Canada’s Substance Use and Addictions Program (SUAP) for a project led by the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax. This project will help to improve health outcomes for people who are at risk of experiencing substance-related harms and overdose by scaling up prevention and harm reduction outreach efforts across Nova Scotia, including in Indigenous communities, as well as by expanding peer and professional health networks throughout the Atlantic region.

Today’s announcement includes nearly $250,000 to support the expansion of Direction 180’s Substance Use Network of the Atlantic Region (SUNAR), a peer-led, regional network of people with lived or living experience of substance use across Atlantic Canada that seeks to enhance and save lives. This funding will help increase the reach of their existing services and programs.

The federal government will continue to work with all orders of government, partners, Indigenous communities, stakeholders, people with lived and living experience of addiction, and organizations in communities in Atlantic Canada and across the country to end this national public health crisis and ensure people have access to the lifesaving substance use services they need.


“The Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre in Halifax is doing incredible work in supporting their community and others across Nova Scotia, and I thank them for their steadfast dedication to help address the overdose crisis while engaging people with lived and living experience. By supporting initiatives like this one in Atlantic Canada and across the country, we can help Canadians receive the health services and peer support they need in a culturally safe and trauma-informed environment. Together, we will work to end this national public health crisis and save lives.”

The Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

“To confront the deadly opioid overdose epidemic, which worsened significantly during the pandemic, we need a community-led response based on harm reduction and public health principles. This requires access to both treatment and support, as well as education and overdose prevention training. By supporting Direction 180 – with their more than two decades of experience doing this work – the Substance Use and Addictions Program funding being announced today will help save more lives across our city, while significantly improving health outcomes for those who use drugs”.

Lena Metlege Diab
Member of Parliament for Halifax West

“Being part of SUNAR has increased the vast majority of participants’ knowledge and skills about safer substance use practices and overdose prevention. Beyond the knowledge and behaviour impact, SUNAR is having significant psychosocial impacts among people who use substances. In fact, all evaluation respondents agreed that SUNAR has had a positive impact on their lives, including increased confidence, enhanced engagement and connection, and feeling of empowerment. We have seen some members go back to school, obtain employment and housing, and meet goals they have set for their substance use health”.

Katie Upham
SUNAR’s Harm Reduction Educator, Direction 180

Quick facts

  • Since 2017, the Government of Canada has taken urgent action to address the overdose crisis through significant investments of over $700 million.
  • Through SUAP, the Government of Canada provides grants and contributions funding to other levels of government, as well as community-led and not-for-profit organizations, to respond to current drug and substance use issues in Canada. Since 2017, it has supported over 200 projects across the country. This investment includes over $60 million invested on safe supply.
  • The $116 million allocated through Budget 2021 builds on a $66 million investment from the 2020 Fall Economic Statement for community-based organizations responding to substance use issues, including helping them provide services in a COVID-19 context.
  • Direction 180, a program of the Mi’kmaw Native Friendship Centre, is a non-profit community-based opioid treatment program located in Halifax. In operation since 2001, the program aims to reduce the inherent risks associated with substance use by offering a range of services, including harm reduction education, peer support, overdose prevention training and home naloxone kits.
  • SUNAR is a peer-led, regional network of people with lived and living experiences of substance use across Atlantic Canada, that started in 2020. It unites and informs service providers and other partners to increase awareness about harm reduction practices and decrease the stigma that people who use substances can face when accessing services. SUNAR’s harm reduction work also includes providing naloxone kits and fentanyl strips. In total it has received over $760,000 in SUAP funding.

Associated links


Maja Staka
Office of the Honourable Carolyn Bennett
Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health

Media Relations
Health Canada

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