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News Release

New University of Regina and AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan Inc. project aims to reduce overdoses

Release Date: August 23, 2023 1:20 PM

Saskatchewan has a drug overdose crisis. The Saskatchewan Coroners’ Report noted 92 confirmed and 199 suspected drug toxicity deaths in the province as of August 1, 2023.

Launched today, Project aims to change these statistics and the lives of the people behind them.

The collaborative project between the University of Regina and AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan Inc. (APSS) will map discarded needles in public places and then offer targeted supports such as naloxone training and recovery options in places where there is high needle use. 

Dr. Andrew Eaton, assistant professor in the University of Regina’s Faculty of Social Work, is principal investigator on this two-year project funded by the Saskatchewan Health Research Foundation (SHRF). “The goal of this work is to introduce effective harm reduction strategies into Regina communities,” says Eaton. 

Developed by APSS, the web application allows anyone who finds used needles on the ground to input their location. APSS staff collects that information and the research team will then use the data to determine hotspot areas where discarded needles in public spaces are the highest and increase harm reduction supports to those areas.

“By targeting hotspot areas we expect to be able to reduce the number of drug-related deaths and encourage safer needle use,” says Eaton.

The team will train 50 Regina residents who use drugs in administering naloxone and in peer support.

“We will provide information about overdose risk factors and symptoms and safer use behaviour,” says Eaton. “When people who use drugs can discuss substance use with their peers in a facilitated space that includes education and therapy, it can be an effective way to reduce overdoses.”

Shiny Mary Varghese, the Executive Director of APSS, will co-lead the project with Eaton and says she is excited to collaborate with him, the University of Regina, and the Eaton Lab in the research project to use geographic information system (GIS) based real-time mapping of hotspots through

“This will allow us to accurately focus harm reduction interventions to maximize efficiency and impact by empowering the target population with harm reduction knowledge, naloxone training, substitution therapies, recovery options, community referrals, and resources to reduce the drug toxicity hospitalizations and deaths in Regina,” says Varghese. “Through this project the team seeks to make a profound difference in the lives of people dealing with substance use disorders.”

Once the team evaluates the program to see what harm-reduction approaches worked, they will share their results so other places can adapt and implement these tools.

Sarah Ross
AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan Inc.
Phone: 306-924-8482

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Mindy Ellis,
University Advancement & Communications
Phone: 306-585-5422

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About AIDS Programs South Saskatchewan Inc. (APSS)

APSS is situated on Treaty 4 Territory, the original lands of the nêhiyawak, Anihšinapek, Dakota, Lakota, and Nakoda, and the homeland of the Métis/Michif Nation. Our harm reduction focusses on education and prevention of the transmission of blood borne infections (HIV/HEP C) and opioid overdoses in Regina and Southern Saskatchewan. APSS provides client care and peer support for People Living With HIV/AIDS and substance use disorders. Our programs address the health and social inequities among people at high risk for HIV and substance use disorders to reduce the transmission of blood borne infections and prevent opioid overdoses.

APSS developed in April 2021 and as of August 15, 2023, we have retrieved and safely disposed off 34,430 discarded needles in the community. The integrated geographical informational system is able to process this data and generate geomaps of community needle incidence hotspots.

Reducing Harms, Improving Lives

Learn more about APSS and support harm reduction at