Needle Exchange Program and Dispensing and Training on the use of Naloxone

In partnership with Elgin St. Thomas Public Health (ESTPH), the Centre offers a harm reduction / needle exchange program at the Health Centre.  The Health Centre and ESTPH neither enables nor encourages the use of illicit drugs, however, we recognize that quitting drugs may not be realistic or even desirable for everyone.

This program has been developed to reduce the burden and transmission of blood-borne pathogens like HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C while improving safety in our community.  We believe in harm reduction and providing a safe place for people to access clean supplies and dispose of used drug equipment.

Naloxone Kit Training / Needle Exchange – Supply Pick-Up Schedule: 

Monday - Friday

8:30 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.

What is harm reduction?
Public health focuses on three areas:
• preventing conditions that may put health at risk (health protection)
• early detection of health problems (screening)
• changing peoples and societies attitudes and practices regarding lifestyle choices (health promotion)

Harm reduction aims to keep people safe and minimize death, disease, and injury from high risk behaviour including psychoactive substance use.

What do harm reduction strategies look like?
Harm reduction strategies that you might already know include:

• Designated drivers

• Needle (or syringe) exchange and safer inhalation programs

• Safer graduations

• Safer sex campaigns (condoms)

• Infant car seat safety programs

• Help to better manage addictions and minimize / stop use of drugs

The philosophy of Needle Exchange and Safer Inhalation Programs in Elgin County?
• A public health approach that aims to reduce drug-related harm experienced by individuals and communities
• Multiple non-judgmental strategies and approaches aimed at providing and enhancing the knowledge, skills, resources and supports for individuals, their families, and communities to be safer and healthier
• Meets drug users ‘where they’re at’, offering one on one counseling with a Public Health Nurse to talk about addiction and supports within the community i.e. Methadone Maintenance Program, Addictions Services Thames Valley, St. Thomas Elgin General Hospital.

What is the purpose of a needle exchange program?
• Prevent transmission of blood-borne viruses and pathogens between individuals (e.g. HIV, Hepatitis C and B and various sexually transmitted infections
• Improves access to services that provide sterile, single-use supplies
• Educate individuals about safer drug use practices to reduce risky behavior
• Collection and safe disposal of dirty sharps and other drug use equipment to reduce incidents of improperly discarded sharps in public places, landfills and other non-ideal disposal locations

Addiction to illicit drugs has been extensively researched with strong, scientific evidence that alludes to resulting physiological and chemical changes to the brains of individuals affected.

Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH): News and Publications

ESTPH neither enables nor encourages the use of illicit drugs. We recognize that quitting drugs may not be realistic or even desirable for everyone. Public health’s role is to reduce the burden and transmission of blood-borne pathogens like HIV, Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C while improving safety in our community.

What are we seeing in Elgin County?
• Consumption of crack cocaine and crystal methamphetamine continue to rise as reported by our needle exchange program (NEP)clients
• Current NEP clients also report the inhalation and/or injection drug use of stimulants (Ritalin, Crack cocaine),anti-depressants (Vyvanse, Wellbutrin), and opioids (Dilaudid, Fentanyl, morphine)
• Confirmed Hepatitis C and HIV diagnoses are on the rise in Elgin County, especially within the intravenous drug using community

Needle Exchange Programs and Safer Inhalation Programs make good public health sense because they:
• Reduce transmission of HIV, Hepatitis B virus (HBV), hepatitis C virus (HCV) and other blood-borne pathogens
• Reduce unsafe drug use and sexual behaviours associated with the transmission of HIV, HBV, HCV and other blood-borne pathogens
• Reduce the number of used needles and other drug equipment discarded in the community
• Do not encourage initiation of injection drug use, do not increase the duration or the frequency of injection drug use or decrease the motivation to reduce drug use
• There is neither an available cure nor a vaccine for HIV
• The lifetime costs of providing treatment for IDUs living with HIV/Hepatitis C greatly exceeds the costs of providing NEP and Safer Inhalation Services
• Are often the only contact these people have with health or social service providers

For more information on harm reduction and needle exchange and safer inhalation programs:
Ontario Harm Reduction Distribution Program:
Best Practice Recommendations for Canadian Harm Reduction Programs that provide service to people who use drugs and are at risk for HIV, HCV, and other harms:
Best Practice Recommendations - Harm Reduction Programs Canada - Part1 (August 15, 2013)