Prairie Harm Reduction awarded for leadership in social justice and harm reduction for the HIV/AIDS community
Prairie Harm Reduction is being recognized with The Casey Award for being transformational in their responsive approach to the needs of people living with and at risk of HIV and Hepatitis C.
Formerly called AIDS Saskatoon, Prairie Harm Reduction is a community-based non-profit working to improve life for service users through harm reduction, emphasizing local action with national impact. They have demonstrated exemplary leadership in a province that has the highest rates of new HIV infection, primarily amongst people who inject drugs.
Executive Director Jason Mercredi has led Prairie Harm Reduction for the last five years, transforming the organization’s direction and boldly implementing much needed services to save lives and reduce HIV infection. Under Mercredi’s leadership, they opened Saskatchewan’s first supervised consumption site (SCS) last year in a challenging and adversarial political climate. Open over 12 hours a day, it is currently the only SCS in Saskatchewan and the only one in Canada offering inhalation services indoors.
Although the current provincial government has admitted that supervised consumption is an effective strategy, and while the rest of Prairie Harm Reduction’s supports are funded through the government, they were denied their funding request to operate their SCS and rely on fundraised dollars.
They have mobilized support from around the country, local businesses and leaders, neighbours and community members, through T-shirt sales, small business partnerships, and crowd funding donations. In the process, they have raised significant awareness about the HIV epidemic in Saskatchewan, educating the public about harm reduction, including reducing stigma and discrimination.
This organization works tirelessly to keep their doors open and save lives, which has inspired people across the country. Amongst the closure of SCS in Alberta and the cutting of funding to sites in Toronto Prairie Harm Reduction continues to lead, finding new ways to meet the needs of the communities they serve. They have been able to mobilize the city of Saskatoon to support the SCS, reduce stigma and discrimination and have demonstrated incredible leadership.
Most importantly, Prairie Harm Reduction has made the world a more humane place for people who use drugs and people living with HIV/AIDS in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan.