Expanding harm reduction supplies and services programming

March 19, 2016

Expanding harm reduction supplies and services programming

The Sudbury & District Health Unit is pleased to announce that over the next six months, access to publicly funded needle exchange services is expanding to include Health Unit
office locations throughout the Sudbury and Manitoulin districts. Ontario Public Health Standards mandate the Sudbury & District Board of Health to ensure access to harm reduction services in its service area.

To achieve this expansion, the administrative responsibility for distributing safe drug injection and inhalation supplies is being transferred back to the Health Unit from the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth (SACY). This approach is consistent with other programs across Ontario where public health units administer harm reduction programs.

The administrative transfer will have no impact on clients’ access to services through existing sites, including SACY, Réseau ACCESS Network and the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (OAHAS). For example, clients who currently access needle exchange services at “The Point”, located at the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth, may continue to get supplies and services there. SACY historically distributes over 700 000 needles a year through its site and street outreach programs.

“It is no secret that for over 20 years, the Sudbury Action Centre for Youth has demonstrated tremendous leadership in providing these much needed harm reduction services to help protect and improve the health of their clients,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Sudbury & District Medical Officer of Health. “We are committed to working closely with SACY and all partners to ensure that clients continue to have access to these essential services.”

The Point has worked hard to earn the trust and respect of its clients by offering services without ever passing judgment. Regardless of whether clients are experimenting with drugs, using regularly, or living with longer term addiction, the program is available to them.

Réseau ACCESS Network and the Ontario Aboriginal HIV/AIDS Strategy (OAHAS) have also been longtime partners in providing harm reduction outreach services, and these partnerships will be maintained with the Health Unit.

For some clients, needle exchange programs are their first point of access to basic health care services, such as counselling and addiction services. Harm reduction programs have
been shown to reduce the spread of diseases as well as other serious health conditions. Having access to clean needles and other supplies decreases the spread of infectious diseases such as HIV and hepatitis B and C.

In addition to providing safe injection and inhalation supplies, clients receive education about safer drug use practices to reduce risky behaviours, safe disposal of used sharps and other drug use equipment.

“A key pillar of the Community Drug Strategy is harm reduction. Access to harm reduction supplies and services is a proven way to help to protect the health of our community,” said Chief Paul Pedersen, Greater Sudbury Police Service, and Co-chair of the Community Drug Strategy. “We are pleased to be working with such a committed group of organizations who provide these much needed services that are critical for public safety.”

For more information about harm reduction programs and services, please contact the Sudbury & District Health Unit at 705.522.9200, ext. 733 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).


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