Social assistance study aims to reduce overdose rate

published on September 24, 2014 by Jesara Sinclair in CBC News

Are there better, more helpful ways to distribute income assistance? A new study hopes to find out

A new pilot project set to launch on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside will try distributing welfare and other social assistance cheques in smaller instalments to see if it will help the recipients better manage their money, stay healthier – and even stay alive.

The project comes out of the results of a BC study published in the International Journal of Drug Policy that found that people who already use intravenous drugs are more likely to overdose shortly after receiving their monthly cheque.

Specifically, the University of British Columbia and St. Paul’s Hospital-affiliated authors of the paper Timing of income assistance payment and overdose patterns at a Canadian supervised injection facility found a twofold increase in the risk of overdose for those injecting within three days of getting their social assistance cheques relative to those injecting on other days.

“Our findings suggest that alternative models of income assistance cheque issuance may be warranted to decrease the morbidity associated with drug overdose and to ease the burden on health systems following cheque day,” the authors wrote.

The conclusion comes as no surprise to Russ Maynard, the Coordinator for Harm Reduction at the Portland Hotel Society, who says the sudden influx of cash every month creates upheaval and turmoil in the community.

“There’s more crime, there’s a lot of disorderly conduct; arguments, fights, and people running out into the street in distress.” he says.

“At Insite we brace for a lot more activity, the visits go up by 25 to 30 per cent, people are more chaotic inside as well,” Maynard said.

View the full article