Reducing alcohol-related harm for people experiencing homelessness and housing instability during COVID19: A Vancouver Island case study

Funding body

Victoria Hospitals Foundation


While there is an abundance of evidence on harm reduction strategies for illicit drugs, there has been less attention to harm reduction strategies for alcohol. People experiencing severe alcohol use disorder (AUD) and homelessness and/or housing instability experience inequities in alcohol-related harms, including acute harms (e.g withdrawal seizures, injuries), chronic harms (e.g. cancers, liver disease), and social harms (e.g. financial, legal issues). This population is at increased risk of infection and alcohol-related harms during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Since March 2020, a spectrum of Managed Alcohol Program (MAP) models have developed on Vancouver Island aimed at reducing alcohol-related harm and health system burden and promoting the use of public health guidelines. There is an urgent need to better understand MAP models on Vancouver Island and specific regional issues in implementation to better inform policy and practice. The focus of this study will be to conduct a case study evaluation of Vancouver Island MAPs to examine models of MAP delivery, the experiences of MAP providers and participants, and MAP impacts on alcohol related harms as well as COVID-19 prevention and management. This research will provide important opportunities for understanding MAP models across diverse contexts, including urban, rural, community, and in-patient MAPs to generate new knowledge and inform regional, provincial, and national procedures and policy related to MAP during COVID-19 and beyond.

Progress to date

We obtained ethics approval for this project in Fall 2021. We made initial contacts with potential participants across Vancouver Island but had to delay data collection until Spring 2022, due to COVID 19 restrictions. Data collection has now been initiated in Port Hardy, Campbell River, Courtenay, Comox, Tofino and Nanaimo. Interviews and focus groups have been completed with participants about managed alcohol programs and alcohol harm reduction activities across the Island. The project has provided four presentation to Island Communities about MAPS. Following this, the team will prepare a report on Managed Alcohol programs during and post COVID on Vancouver Island.