New Brunswick: Recommendations for Change

As part of the two-day New Brunswick public health dialogue, participants told us what needs to change to best protect the health, safety, and human rights of their communities amid two public health crises. They are the experts in their own experience and governments must listen.

new brunswick dialogue recommendations new brunswick dialogue recommendations

  1. Begin a widespread anti-stigma training and public awareness campaign about substance use (including mental health and trauma-informed practices) directed at health care professionals, policymakers, elected officials and the general public.
    • Substance use and addiction are misunderstood by many. Sharing the stories of people with lived and living experience of substance use can help elected officials and other decision makers better understand the issue so that they can take informed action. Elected officials need to see that there is widespread support for harm reduction initiatives.
  2. Offer stable, affordable housing where people can live in dignity (minimum one-bedroom units) as not having access to this basic necessity of life is a significant barrier for people who use substances. 
    • Reduce or eliminate waitlists.
    • Repurpose existing facilities for emergency shelters and permanent housing or look into other low-cost alternatives such as shipping container mini-homes.
    • Integrate supportive housing with other social service programs.
  3. Increase 24-hour access to basic services such as washrooms; telephone; and Wi-Fi in public spaces, especially in rural areas.
  4. Offer regular, stable funding for organizations providing support services.
    • Current funding models are grant-based and therefore too precarious.
    • Services such as job skills training, employment agencies, life skills training, harm reduction and peer support are needed for people who use substances.
    • Government leaders are encouraged to visit service providers and speak to service users to see how acute the need and tangible the impacts are.
    • Divert funding from enforcement to increase service availability and reach.
  5. Increase mental health services and programming.
    • Implement mental health programs for children and youth in schools to teach long-term effective emotional regulation skills.
    • Increase the number of social workers and therapists providing care.
  6. Increase harm reduction services, including safe injection sites, distribution of Naloxone, and harm reduction supplies, such as unused needles, drug testing, safe supply, and treatment.
    • Eliminate or reduce waitlists for treatment.
    • Provide services beyond the hours of 9 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and on weekends.
  7. Respond to the needs of people who use substances by
    • Establishing a harm reduction task force to ensure issues are being taken into account and acted upon
    • Developing proactive policy changes that are responsive to the lived realities of people who are unhoused and/or affected by substance use disorder

READ MORE: It starts with stigma: Summary report of the New Brunswick public health dialogue

Positives: Programs and Services Saving Lives

Dialogue participants also identified many positive actions and programs that were having a significant impact on their daily lives. People repeatedly mentioned the important role of needle exchange programs in protecting health and safety. Other services included 

  • Methadone programs (without long waitlists)
  • The Intense Day Therapy Program, which offers support to people after detox
  • Injectable Opioid Agonist Therapy (Riverstone Recovery Centre)
  • Parent-child programs that keep families together
  • Outreach programs that bring services to communities

Participants also underscored how collaboration and partnerships between peer networks and non-profits, along with relationships built between organizations and government bureaucrats were also extremely helpful. These relationships helped mobilize resources and action, and they allowed for better information sharing so that those crafting laws and policy understood the realities within the communities they served.

(Photo credit: Breau, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

About Canadian Drug Policy Coalition

Advocating for public health- and human rights-based drug policies grounded in evidence, social justice, and compassion. www.drugpolicy.ca