The Saskatchewan Health Authority is looking at new alternatives and strategies for harm reduction for frequent drug users.
Usually, when a person thinks about a vending machine, they think about their favourite snacks and drinks.
Well, the SHA is thinking about repurposing some vending machines to help deliver clean equipment and paraphernalia for people dealing with drug addictions.
“Drug use practices that we have right now can lead to transmission of HIV, HCV, and other infectious diseases which is a pressing issue... So, harm reduction is really about how do we deal with this kind of situation,” says Dr. Hortense Tabien, Medical Health Officer with the SHA.
“It is clear that problematic use does generate high social and physical costs but at the same time, best results can be achieved by managing it as a health issue, and it requires a full range of evidence-based interventions, and one of those interventions is having those vending machines.”
Tabien says that the vending machines are a pragmatic response to attempt to slow down infection rates.
The machines will have paraphernalia disposal units and they will be filled with clean needles and drug use equipment.
Moose Jaw’s current needle exchange site operates out of Crescent View Clinic.
“We provide a variety of harm reduction supplies for safer drug use. So, really what the vending machines do is they offer an alternative location for individuals to receive those supplies because the services at Crescent View are available 7 days a week from 9 am to noon and then from one to four pm. So, if somebody requires new equipment and supplies after those hours then the vending machines are available to be able to meet that need,” says Sherri Buhler, Director, Primary Health Care at the Dr. F.H. Wigmore Hospital.
The vending machines aren’t installed in Moose Jaw yet.
Buhler and Tabien are unable to give a timeline of when and where these machines will be installed in the city since the SHA is still going through the planning stages of the project.