Supervised consumption services (SCS), intended to reduce morbidity and mortality among people who inject drugs, have been implemented in a variety of delivery models. We describe and compare access to and uptake of co-located and external services among clients accessing harm reduction-embedded (HR-embedded) and community health center-embedded (CHC-embedded) SCS models.
Cross-sectional baseline data were collected between November 2018 and March 2020 as part of a cohort of people who inject drugs in Toronto, Canada designed to evaluate one HR-embedded and two CHC-embedded SCS. This analysis was restricted to clients who reported accessing these SCS more than once in the previous 6 months. Participants were classified as HR-embedded or CHC-embedded SCS clients based on self-reported usage patterns. Client characteristics, as well as access to onsite services and referral and uptake of external services, were compared by SCS model.
Among 469 SCS clients, 305 (65.0%) primarily used HR-embedded SCS and 164 (35.0%) primarily used CHC-embedded SCS. Compared to clients accessing CHC-embedded SCS, clients accessing HR-embedded SCS were somewhat younger (37.6 vs. 41.4, p < 0.001), more likely to report fentanyl as their primary injected drug (62.6% vs. 42.7%, p < 0.001), and visited SCS more often (49.5% vs. 25.6% ≥ daily, p < 0.001). HR-embedded SCS clients were more likely to access harm reduction services onsite compared to CHC-embedded SCS clients (94.8% vs. 89.6%, p = 0.04), while CHC-embedded SCS clients were more likely to access non-harm reduction services onsite (57.3% vs. 26.6%, p < 0.001). For external services, HR-embedded SCS clients were more likely to receive a referral (p = 0.03) but less likely to report referral uptake (p = 0.009).
Clients accessing HR-embedded and CHC-embedded SCS were largely demographically similar but had different drug and SCS use patterns, with CHC-embedded SCS clients using the site less frequently. While clients of CHC-embedded SCS reported greater access to ancillary health services onsite, external service use remained moderate overall, underscoring the importance of co-location and support for clients with system navigation. Importantly, lack of capacity in services across the system may impact ability of staff to make referrals and/or the ability of clients to take up a referral.