The Saskatchewan government has started the process of adding 150 to 200 new addictions treatment spaces in the province, as outlined in its most recent budget.
In the budget, released in March 2022, the province allocated $2.1 million for new treatment beds over the next three years, but didn't specify where they'd be placed.
On Monday, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Ministry of Health posted a request for proposal (RFP) looking for organizations that can provide the additional treatment beds.
"Priority will be given to Proponents who score the highest-with the highest number of beds in areas of the province with the highest need and high-risk areas," the RFP says.
"For the purpose of this RFP, an emphasis is placed on inpatient service options including detox."
Advocates say the province also needs to do more to prevent overdoses and that treatment beds alone won't do that.
The RFP acknowledges that overdoses are a problem in the province.
"There are increasing alcohol and drug related harms in Saskatchewan, and most notably there is an increasing number of overdoses and overdose deaths," the request from the health ministry and SHA reads, in part.
"Saskatchewan currently has wait lists for some addictions services. The [health authority] is committed to improving addictions capacity by adding addiction spaces across the continuum of services."
Read the particulars of what the RFP is asking for here:
The government's RFP says the supplier will need to be able to address a range of services including detox and withdrawal management, inpatient addictions treatment, and recovery services like pre- and post-treatment spaces in rural and urban locations in need.
It wants to find an organization to host the spaces to "increase access to wrap-around, holistic, and non-stigmatizing addiction services in either outpatient services, inpatient treatment, or recovery or transitional services."
An inpatient bed is one bed available year-round, in comparison to an outpatient bed, which hosts groups of people over a period of time each year, as with day treatment services.
The province currently has 475 pre-treatment, detoxification, treatment and post-treatment beds funded across the province, it said.
"Addressing wait times and access to treatment and supports for substance use disorders is a priority for our government," provincial Health Minister Everett Hindley said in a news release.
Right idea, wrong execution: advocates
Advocates agree the government needs to combat rising drug overdose deaths in the province, but says treatment beds aren't the only solution needed.
They say the province needs to fund a supervised consumption site, something it has omitted from its budget so far.
"We've already lost hundreds of people to overdoses in this province last year. That will continue to grow," Kayla DeMong, executive director of Prairie Harm Reduction (PHR), told CBC News in March. PHR runs the province's only supervised consumption site in Saskatoon.
Last year was the province's worst for recorded overdoses.
It reached 365 confirmed drug toxicity deaths in 2021, with another 60 deaths suspected to be from drugs, a steady rise from the 109 confirmed deaths recorded in 2016.
As of June 2, there have been 36 confirmed drug toxicity deaths and another 174 suspected in 2022.