Dr. Colleen Varcoe
Funding Announced for Dr. Varcoe's Pathways Project (credit: Clare Kiernan)

Funding for EQUIP Pathways Announced

21 Apr 2021

On April 9, 2021, Ken Hardie, Member of Parliament for Fleetwood-Port Kells, and BC Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, Sheila Malcolmson made a joint announcement regarding government funding for the “Supporting Pathways to Care for People Who Use Drugs” (the PHAC funding stream) and the “Substance Use and Addictions Program” (SUAP). Joining the virtual government announcement as one of two invited speakers, Professor Colleen Varcoe expressed gratitude for receiving $1M to support “Equipping Health Care to Tackle Stigma, Discrimination, and Inequity,” the project she leads at the UBC School of Nursing (the Pathways Project).

In her remarks, Dr. Varcoe pointed out that “Many people use drugs but not everybody faces the same levels of harm and discrimination. Some populations, like Indigenous people, face racist stereotypes on a daily basis related to use of drugs and alcohol, whether or not they use them.”

According to Dr. Varcoe, education alone is not sufficient to change the wider culture effectively. “The problem isn’t that we have a few bad apples treating people poorly, but rather, we have systems of care that aim to be efficient, but are not always as effective as they should be.”

Dr. Varcoe further explained the work she has been carrying out with her team in her program. “Working with many partners including clinical partners and people with lived experience of substance use discrimination, we’re creating guides and online modules and learning tools and so on, but more importantly, we’re trying to take these tools into action. We provide strategies and pathways that actually support the healthcare organizations more effectively toward care that’s trauma- and violence-informed, culturally safe, and oriented toward harm-reduction and substance use health.”

The Pathways team plans to create additional new tools and resources for educating health care and social service providers and organizations on substance use stigma and anti-stigma approaches. A series of animations on substance use stigma along with French translations are also planned, along with expanded evaluation and engagement activities, and initiatives to disseminate all the available materials widely.