A local health team is working with the public health unit to start a needle exchange program, offering free injection and smoking kits to anyone who asks, and providing health and addiction support if requested.
The South Georgian Bay Community Health Centre announced earlier this week it is partnering with the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit for the needle exchange program.
The initiative is aimed at reducing the risk of spreading blood-borne disease by offering clean needles to injection drug users, according to a news release from the health centre.
The program will be providing injection kits, which include new needles, spoons, alcohol swabs, sterile water, tourniquets, and (if requested) vitamin C to anyone who asks. No identification will be required and there will be a nurse on site to answer questions.
“Research shows that harm reduction programs do not increase drug use and in fact, increase the likelihood of someone getting help and entering a treatment program,” said Heather Klein Gebbinck, executive director of the South Georgian Bay Community Health Centre. “The needle exchange program is a crucial part of our harm reduction strategy by helping to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases, improve health outcomes and increase safety for our community at large.”
The health centre will also give away safe smoking kits including gas stems or bowl pipes, screens, and mouth pieces. Staff will provide sharps containers with each of the kits for safe disposal of used needles, stems, pipes, and other equipment.
Those who come to the health centre to pick up the kits will also have access to information about safer substance use practices and community resources. The health centre is offering addiction support through the Royal Victoria Regional Health Centre’s Rapid Action Medical clinic, which is located at the health centre in Wasaga Beach (14 Ramblewood Dr.).
According to the news release, the goal of the needle exchange program is to help reduce the spread of HIV, hepatitis C, and other diseases, and potentially reduce the number of discarded needles in public.
The needle exchange is open for anyone and available during the health centre operating hours. For more information and to access the program, visit the health centre website.
For more resources on drug use, and supports available for those using drugs or living with addiction, the Simcoe Muskoka District Health Unit has compiled a list of local services online here.