PI and project team: Cayley Russell, MA; Farihah Ali, PhD; Frishta Nafeh, MPH; Sean LeBlanc; Sameer Imtiaz, PhD; Tara Elton-Marshall, PhD; Jurgen Rehm, PhD
Problematic substance use is a complex social, economic and public health issue requiring effective multi-level partnerships and innovative solutions. People who use drugs (PWUD - or 'peers') represent one of the best available resources for gaining insight into potential solutions to address addiction, yet they are commonly left out of critical conversations related to policy and service design and development. Rather than being involved as passive participants in research studies and clinical trials, PWUD should be meaningfully engaged as partners and stakeholders throughout research and policy-making processes, and 'peer engagement' is increasingly supported as a best-practice approach when developing research priorities and related services, programs and policies. In 2019, OCRINT conducted the 'Identifying Service Needs among PWUD' project, which sought to identify substance use service needs among PWUD by incorporating their experiences on substance use and addiction services in Ontario, towards identifying key service and system needs and proposed changes, based on their perspectives on the availability, accessibility, and quality of available services. In-depth qualitative interviews were conducted with n=46 PWUD recruited from different substance use services across Ontario. The results of this study are currently under review for academic journal publication and can be used to help improve substance use prevention and treatment, as well as service access, design, and relevance across the province.