Dr. Charity Evans (PhD) is the director of Continuing Professional Development for Pharmacy Professionals, a unit within USask’s College of Pharmacy and Nutrition. (Photo: Josh Schaefer)

USask training pharmacists to help address substance use

A new resource is being developed at the University of Saskatchewan (USask) to help address opioid and crystal meth use in the province.


Continuing Professional Development for Pharmacy Professionals (CPDPP), a unit within USask’s College of Pharmacy and Nutrition, will take the lead on training provincial pharmacists and pharmacy technicians in a new program to help address substance use disorders in the province.

Beginning this spring, CPDPP will start training Saskatchewan pharmacists in opioid agonist therapy, which includes opioid substitution therapy such as methadone. But the training will also help pharmacists better understand patient needs and root causes of substance use.

The new program will embrace the concept of trauma-informed practice that emphasizes physical, psychological, and emotional safety and creates opportunities for people to rebuild a sense of control and empowerment. The case-based learning approach will help pharmacists understand the lived experiences of their patients, rather than simply viewing the situation as a condition to be treated with medication.

“It’s important to understand why and how patients arrived in their current situations,” said Dr. Charity Evans (PhD), director of CPDPP.

Funding for the program comes from the bilateral agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Saskatchewan under the Emergency Treatment Fund, which was part of the 2018 federal budget to provide one-time emergency funding for provinces and territories to improve access to evidence-based treatment services.

 Through the agreement, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health is providing CPDPP with $100,000 to develop and implement the training program.

The overall goal of the new program is to increase access to services to help people who are using opioids and crystal meth. As front-line health-care professionals, pharmacists and technicians are regularly in contact with people in the community and are well-positioned to help address substance use disorders.

The training program is intended to be one piece of an overall harm reduction strategy in the province.

“Harm reduction is a huge, complex system and there isn’t one simple answer to addressing substance use disorders,” continued Evans. “Pharmacy professionals in Saskatchewan will soon be an additional resource to help people with substance use disorders.”

The training program will also be interdisciplinary, and will utilize expertise from individuals with lived experience, pharmacists already involved in harm reduction activities, doctors, nurses and other health-care professionals, and will be delivered through both online modules and in-person workshops in Saskatoon and Regina, and facilitated workshops in smaller centres.

The online training component is currently being adapted from an existing program from British Columbia. Topics in the existing program range from methadone treatment to psychosocial interventions and support.

CPDPP is working closely with the Saskatchewan College of Pharmacy Professionals, the provincial regulatory and licensing body for pharmacists and pharmacy technicians, and the Pharmacy Association of Saskatchewan to minimize barriers to participate in this training and ensure as many pharmacists and technicians as possible have the skills necessary to help people with substance use disorders.