Julian Somers

Written By Northern Beat staff

Dr. Julian Somers is a clinical psychologist and a SFU distinguished professor of health sciences. The director of the Centre for Applied Research in Mental Health and Addictions (CARMHA), he is also head of Somers Research Group.

He and his team have amassed a vast body of work researching the intersectional effects of homelessness, addiction, mental illness, criminality, housing, employment and social inclusion on people’s health and well being.

Somers and his co-authors were attacked by PSAD/safe supply advocates for their rapid review of safer supply because it concluded there were no proven benefits to the program and probable harms.

(Which is true.)

Somers and his team had been asked by the Alberta legislative health committee – mandated to consider the concept of safer supply – to conduct a review of published scientific data on the topic for their consideration. A request the PSAD/safe supply researchers apparently took exception to, along with the review’s findings.

“Until we have high quality outcome data from safer supply evaluations, reports such as the [Somers et al rapid review] are unhelpful and potentially dangerous,” reads a letter signed by about 50 mostly government-funded safe supply scientists to Alberta legislative health committee members.

Which essentially affirmed the results of Somers’ rapid review – safer supply is not yet supported by evidence – while simultaneously asking the elected officials ignore them.

The latter demand being astounding overreach for government-affiliated researchers (in another province yet), did what any reasonably functioning democratic institution should do, they ignored it and accepted Somers and company’s research, along with all other submissions they recieved (including the letter from the PSAD researchers).

Ultimately, the legislators cautioned against the many risks and nebulous benefits of PSAD/safer supply and the province chose not to support the program. Instead, Alberta has begun building what it hopes will be a comprehensive province-wide recovery-oriented addictions treatment system modelled after aspects of Portugal’s widely respected and successful drug strategy.