Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jan 2017
Source: Ottawa Sun (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Canoe Limited Partnership
Author: Jon Willing
Page: 4


The Sandy Hill Community Health Centre is submitting a request to be
named as a safe injection site in Ottawa.

Needle-dispensing vending machines could be installed at five
locations across Ottawa, making it the first city in Canada to offer
sterile syringes in machines to reduce drug-related virus

Vera Etches, the deputy medical officer of health, said Ottawa Public
Health hasn't yet decided what material would be available in the
vending machines, but needles and crack pipes are definite

The machines would fill a gap in service for drug users who need clean
needles when a community program is closed for the day. There are no
24/7 services that provide clean needles.

"This is about making sure people have sterile supplies in the
off-hours," Etches said in an interview Wednesday.

The health unit doesn't know yet how much the five machines would
cost, but Etches said the expense would be covered by the province.

It would run as a pilot project on a flexible timeline, but the
machines are to be delivered by the end of February.

Access to the machines - which would likely use special tokens - would
be restricted to people who need harm-reduction services.

The machines could also be filled with other sterile supplies and
information to help drug users protect themselves.

One knock against the vending machines is the limited amount of
information available to users, compared to what they would receive
from staff

at service providers. Etches said the machines won't replace the
face-to-face interactions, but instead complement them.

In 2014, some locations in Vancouver installed vending machines
offering crack pipes as part of a harm-reduction program.

A staff report to Ottawa's public health board last June indicated as
many as 5,000 people in this city use injection drugs. The report
cited a University of Ottawa study from 2014 that says 13.9 per cent
of people who inject drugs indicated they had taken drugs with a used

The health unit also learned that, based on 2011 data, Ottawa has a
higher prevalence of HIV for people who inject drugs, compared to
Toronto. The prevalence of hep C for people who inject drugs in Ottawa
is also higher than those in Montreal.

A survey by the health unit last summer indicated that 62 per cent of
the 2,263 respondents believe harm reduction dispensing machines would
be "beneficial" in Ottawa. In the same survey, 51 per cent of
respondents had "no concern" about the units.

The five potential locations for the vending machines are the city's
sexual health clinic on Clarence Street, Centretown Community Health
Centre on Cooper Street, Somerset West Community Health Centre on
Eccles Street, Sandy Hill Community Health Centre on Nelson Street and
an addictions treatment clinic on Montreal Road.

David Gibson, executive director of the Sandy Hill Community Health
Centre, said the organization has discussed the machines with the
health unit but haven't made a decision.
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