Pubdate: Thu, 05 Jan 2017
Source: Ottawa Citizen (CN ON)
Copyright: 2017 Postmedia Network Inc.
Author: Jon Willing
Page: A4


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

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 possibilities.

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.

"This is not city dollars going into a new harm-reduction service," she said.

The health unit is currently pricing out the machines and identifying

It would run as a pilot project. The timeline for the pilot and the
delivery of the machines is flexible, even though the health unit has told
prospective vendors it wants the machines delivered near the end of

"We can't rush things," Etches said. "These kinds of initiatives are
making sure the community is involved."

The likely scenario for a person using a machine would involve getting a
token or card from an existing social service. Access to the machines
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.

Etches said the machines would not be filled with naloxone, which is used
to treat narcotic overdoses, because there needs to be counselling on how
to respond to overdoses.

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.

Some countries in Europe, along with Australia and New Zealand, have
needle-dispensing machines.

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 previously used needle.

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 hepatitis C for people who inject drugs in Ottawa is
higher than those in Montreal, according to the data.

A survey by the health unit last summer indicated that 62 per cent of
respondents (2,263 people completed the survey in total) 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.
- ---
MAP posted-by: