Substance Use and Harm Reduction Information for Health Professionals
Harm reduction is an approach that aims to reduce drug-related harm experienced by individuals and communities without necessarily reducing the consumption of drugs.
People who use drugs may require access to various services and/or, don’t always disclose their drug use to their health care provider.
York Region Public Health encourages health professionals to follow these five recommendations:
Encourage Patients to Access Harm Reduction Services
Harm reduction services and supplies are available at no cost from:
- Addiction Services Central Ontario (opioid substitution)
- CAYR Community Connections
- Loft/Crosslink - Street Outreach Van (mobile outreach)
- York Region Public Health
Harm reduction services can offer a range of services including:
- Harm reduction supply distribution (needle exchange/supplies, safer crack/crystal meth smoking supplies)
- Naloxone kit distribution and opioid overdose recognition and response training
- Counselling and support
- General nursing care
- Support and referral to community agencies
Note: Clients may self-refer to services listed above.
Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinics
A Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic is a low-barrier, walk-in clinic that patients can attend to get help for a substance use disorder without an appointment or formal referral. RAAM clinics provide time-limited medical addiction care (including pharmacotherapy, brief counselling, and referrals to community services). Please bring your health card.
RAMM Clinics in York Region can be found at:
- Mackenzie Health Hospital (Richmond Hill)
- Oak Valley Health (Markham)
- Southlake Regional Health Centre (Newmarket)
For location, contact information and hours for York Region RAAM Clinics, visit Addiction Services Central Ontario
Please note: Due to COVID-19, organizations may have changed their service delivery and hours of operation. It will be helpful to call ahead first. Please refer to COVID-19: Guidance Document for Service Providers-Substance Use & Harm Reduction.
For more information on how to become a harm reduction supplies and distribution site, call 1-877-464-9675 ext. 76683 or email @email
Educate Patients About Where to Get Naloxone Kits
Educate clients on the benefits of having a naloxone kit and where they can get one.
Naloxone kits are provided free-of-charge for people who are:
- at risk of an opioid overdose
- a family member, friend or other person able to help someone at risk of an opioid overdose
Where are kits available?
- Participating pharmacies: Ontario Locator
- York Region Naloxone Distributors. Call ahead to ensure kit availability and arrange pick-up:
- 360° Kids (Richmond Hill ) 905-475-6694; for youth and young adults aged 16 to 26
- Addiction Services Central Ontario (Aurora) 1-800-263-2288 or 905-841-7007
- Caritas School of Life (Woodbridge) 1-800-201-8138 or 416-748-9988
- CAYR Community Connections (Richmond Hill) 1-800-243-7717 or 905-884-0613
- Inn from the Cold (Newmarket) 905-895-8889
- The Krasman Centre (Richmond Hill) 1-888-780-0724 or 905-780-0491
- York Region Public Health, 1-877-464-9675 ext. 76683
For more information on how to become a naloxone distributor, call 1-877-464-9675 ext. 76683 or email @email
Share These Five Key Messages About Reducing Opioid Overdose Risk with Your Patients
- Obtain a naloxone kit at no cost. Encourage your family and friends to get a naloxone kit too.
- If someone is experiencing an overdose, call 911 and give naloxone. Start chest compressions. If the person does not respond after two to three minutes, give another dose of naloxone. Do not leave the person alone.
- If you haven’t used for a while, or if you have a new dealer or new source, do a test amount, start low and go slow.
- Do not use alone. If using alone, tell someone, so they can check on you.
- If you would like help with your substance use contact a Rapid Access to Addiction Medicine (RAAM) clinic.
Follow the Opioids Guideline
Supports for health care provider:
Substance Use and Stigma
- Guide for Using Non-stigmatized Language Poster
- Language Matters
- Respectful Language and Stigma Regarding People Who Use Substances – Guide for Healthcare Workers
- Stigma around substance use
- Compassionate Engagement Online Modules (designed by people who use drugs for health care providers)
Supporting Health Care Providers - Opioid Use Disorder
Problematic Opioid Use (fact sheet) by Government of Canada
Definition of “Problematic Opioid Use”.
This six-part program provides an overview of key concepts and skills for clinicians facing common challenges in the management of patients with chronic pain, including reducing the risks of opioids and addressing opioid use disorder.
Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Tool by Centre for Effective Practice (CEP)
The Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) Tool aims to guide primary care providers through the identification and management of individuals who have problems with opioid use. It includes a step-by-step approach for initiating and maintaining Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) with buprenorphine-naloxone.
Management of opioid use disorders: a national clinical practice guideline published in CMAJ in 2018 by J. Bruneau et al.
This guideline strongly recommends opioid agonist treatment with buprenorphine–naloxone as the preferred first-line treatment when possible, because of buprenorphine’s multiple advantages, which include a superior safety profile in terms of overdose risk.
Opioid Use Disorder by Health Quality Ontario (HQO)
This link contains the quality standard; the guide for patients; an information brief demonstrating why the quality standard is needed; quality improvement tools and resources; and performance indicators to help clinicians and organizations track their progress against the standard.
PHO Interactive Opioid Tool
Explore the most recent opioid-related morbidity and mortality data.
Provide Support Services
Supports for clients/patients:
Naloxone education for clients/patients
Refer clients/patients for treatment
A rapid access addiction medicine (RAAM) clinic is a low-barrier, walk-in clinic that patients can attend to get help for a substance use disorder without an appointment or formal referral. RAAM clinics provide time-limited medical addiction care (including pharmacotherapy, brief counselling, and referrals to community services).
Central Health Line
Find health care providers across the Central region of Ontario.
Provides free and confidential health services information on resources for people experiencing problems with alcohol and drugs, mental illness or gambling. This information includes:
- where the service is located
- how to access the service
- how long the wait to access the service may be
It is not a counselling site. Funded by the Government of Ontario.
Self-Management Resources in Ontario
Online and in-person by LHIN self-management courses for patients.
Reporting bad drugs in York Region
Report Bad Drugs (york.ca/reportbaddrugs) is an anonymous, online reporting tool for community partners and the public. Anyone with a concern or bad experience with street drugs or overdoses in the community can use the tool to share information with York Region Public Health.
The information you provide will be reviewed by York Region Public Health staff and used to inform public health actions in the community. The reports are anonymous and no personal or identifying information will be collected. If you have any questions or feedback, please contact the York Region Public Health Substance Use Prevention and Harm Reduction Program at 1-877-464-9675 ext. 76683 or @email
This reporting tool is not for emergencies. If you are experiencing an emergency, call 911 immediately.