RainCity Housing and Support Society will develop and execute a new regional harm reduction strategy, including picking up discarded needles according to Fraser Health.
The new agreement includes identifying communities in the region that will immediately benefit from both short and long-term harm reduction measures.
RainCity currently operates a temporary homeless shelter in downtown Maple Ridge. Earlier this year, the city purchased property along Lougheed Highway, near the cemetery, to build a supportive housing structure similar to the one RainCity operates in Coquitlam.
“Harm reduction strategies like these benefit the whole community,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “They provide the resources and education to help to keep people safe and prevent harms associated with illicit drugs including overdoses.”
The new agreement will build on a multi-pronged overdose strategy which aims to reduce the number of drug overdoses in the region, said Fraser Health chief medical health officer Dr. Victoria Lee.
“Through this strategy, we are working closely with our community partners to enhance our harm reduction services where a need has been identified.”
The new strategy:
• engagement with local stakeholders as the plan is implemented in communities with the greatest need;
• peer-based information and education to reduce the incidence of inappropriately discarded needles, increase safe using practices, prevent overdoses, and provide referrals and information about healthcare, social services and addiction treatment;
• needle recovery program that is responsive to community needs as well as the needs of marginalized people who use drugs;
• distribution of harm reduction supplies to people who use drugs;
• information dissemination about health alerts (e.g. spikes in overdoses).
“An important part of a robust harm reduction program involves collecting inappropriately discarded needles,” said Greg Richmond, co-executive director RainCity Housing and Support Society. “While this is a priority, our goal will also be to connect with people and engage them in care.”
The use of a peer-informed approach is a cornerstone of the long-term strategy, which will connect people who use drugs with individuals who have faced their own substance use challenges.
As one of the tenets of harm reduction is to engage individuals in safer drug using practices that reduce infectious diseases such as HIV and Hep C, a peer-informed approach is considered an effective way to establish a connection with people who may not otherwise seek support for their addiction. In addition, a peer-based approach provides low-barrier employment opportunities to help stabilize individuals who are in the recovery process.
On July 27, Premier Christy Clark announced a new Joint Task Force on Overdose Prevention and Response. The actions being taken under the task force support the ongoing work to support and treat British Columbians with substance use issues, a key priority of government. The Province has committed to meet the goal of opening 500 new substance use treatment beds by 2017. In the past two years, the Province has opened more than 220 new beds as part of this commitment to ensure better access to appropriate substance use supports.