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News (Media Awareness Project) - CN BC: Health Authority Planning To Increase Harm Reduction Activities
Title:CN BC: Health Authority Planning To Increase Harm Reduction Activities
Published On:2012-01-19
Source:Nanaimo News Bulletin (CN BC)
Fetched On:2012-01-23 06:01:02

The Vancouver Island Health Authority is looking at distributing crack
kits, needles and other harm reduction supplies at additional
facilities across the Island.

The health authority made harm reduction a hot topic in Nanaimo when
it rolled out a pilot project for a mobile service without
consultation in 2007, drawing backlash from the community and city

The health authority backed off, but last year implemented the first
phase of its harm reduction strategy, which included distributing
these items at eight 'secondary' sites across the Island, meaning the
facilities' primary purpose is not to distribute harm reduction
supplies, but service users can get the supplies while there.

Three sites are in the central Island region, including one in
Nanaimo, although the health authority will not reveal the exact
locations to protect clients who access the services.

Val Wilson, health authority spokeswoman, said there were no reports
of public congregation or disorder at any of the secondary sites and
no reports of interference with other services on site.

The secondary sites are distributing up to 160 syringes monthly. Stats
are not collected on other harm reduction supplies, as this would be
too time consuming for providers, Wilson said.

Dr. Paul Hasselback, a medical health officer with the health
authority, said health officials have just begun looking at other
sites to distribute harm reduction supplies. The final number of
additional sites and where they will be is not finalized.

"The exploration is beginning," he said. "How long will it take? I
really don't know."

Each potential site will be reviewed using a variety of criteria,
including local need, physical location, and appropriateness of both
community and neighbourhood environment and the facility itself, said

Nanaimo would benefit from more sites because drug users are spread
out across the city and Harris House, the primary provider of harm
reduction materials, reaches mainly those in the downtown area, he

"Many of the individuals are well-integrated in society," said
Hasselback. "Public access is not as good as you might think. Nanaimo
clearly is a community that would benefit from more locations."

He said harm reduction is an important health service that reduces the
spread of infectious diseases such as Hepatitis C and HIV and allows
service providers to develop a relationship with those who could
benefit from a lifestyle change.

The strategy also saves the health-care system money - a single case
of Hepatitis C can cost between $125,000 and $250,000.
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