WINNIPEG - AUGUST 15, 2023: The Mobile Overdose Prevention Site (MOPS) is slated to lose funding as of October 31 and is at risk of closing.
Operated by Sunshine House, a community drop-in and resource centre, MOPS is the first and only service of its kind in Manitoba.
MOPS, which operates with a federal exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act, and is funded through federal dollars through Health Canada's Substance Use and Addictions Program until October 31, 2023. It runs five days per week in central Winnipeg.
“This news of this critical funding loss, and the resulting potential closure of our MOPS program, is a significant blow to life-saving harm reduction work in the city,” said Levi Foy, executive director of Sunshine House. “With the continued increase in drug poisonings due to toxic drug supply, we cannot allow this program to discontinue. The community needs to have a safe place to test and use drugs with people they have come to know and trust.”
“People will not stop using drugs because MOPS is at risk of closing,” Foy explained, “But it does mean many folks may lose the ability to make informed decisions about how they’re using and this will have devastating consequences for the community, including potential loss of life. This is completely preventable.”
The site offers supports that include providing drug alerts to the community, drug testing, reversing overdoses, education on using naloxone and referrals to community resources. Additionally, since January the site has provided over 300 rapid HIV tests to individuals and connected those testing positive to care and treatment, as well as developing a partnership with Go Ask Aunty to provide onsite HIV and STBBI testing for those who visit MOPS. MOPS also provides food and beverages and an opportunity for creating important community connections for those who may be marginalized.
“Testing drugs and reversing overdoses is a critical part of the work we do here at the MOPS,” said Davey Cole, MOPS coordinator. “We are also doing other important community-building work like developing trusting relationships with community members, supervised training and employment opportunities for people who use drugs, offering food and drinks and providing referrals to other community organizations.”
From November to June, MOPS logged over 14,000 visits, given out over 2,300 naloxone kits, and checked 338 substances, while building many trusting relationships with the community.
“There is a demonstrated need for this program and that is important to the community,” Foy said. “We are doing our best to ensure it stays open and continues to support folks who use drugs.”
Sunshine House needs to raise $275,000 to keep the site up and running after federal funding ends in October. To learn more about the Mobile Overdose Prevention Site and how to support keeping it running, visit SaferSites.ca.
Levi Foy, Executive Director
Sunshine House, Inc.