Southern Health-Santé Sud Rolls out Harm Reduction Program

Southern Health-Santé Sud, Public Health-Healthy Living is rolling out a Harm Reduction Program to help prevent new Hepatitis C and HIV infections.

Harm reduction strategies focus on reducing the harmful consequences of drug use and other behaviors that negatively affect a person’s health. Harm reduction also recognizes the difficulties associated with drug addiction and that avoiding drugs may not be realistic for everyone. Access to sterile needles does not eliminate drug use, but does reduce the risk for blood-borne pathogens and drug-related injury.

“The needle and supply distribution program is helpful in modifying many risk-related practices of injection drug use, for example reusing and sharing needles. This program reduces the spread of blood-borne illnesses such as HIV and hepatitis C,” says Stephanie Verhoeven, Regional Director - Public Health-Healthy Living. “We’re providing knowledge, skills, resources and supports for individuals who are using drugs to be safer and healthier.”

The Sterile Needle & Supply Distribution Programis provided within each of the Southern Health-Santé Sud public health offices, including support for sterile needle and supply distribution as well as used-needle drop off. Public health nurses meet with individuals at their request to provide education on how to prevent the spread of infection or deal with other health effects of drug use, refer for testing for sexually-transmitted and blood-borne infections (STBBIs) and connect people to health and social services. Public health offices are generally open Monday to Friday from 8:30 am to 4:30 pm, however hours vary from community to community. People obtaining supplies may choose to remain anonymous.

Safe-needle disposal is important

Southern Health-Santé Sud strongly encourages people accessing drug-related supplies to safely dispose of needles by returning them to public health offices in a sharps container or to a pharmacy that accepts used needles.

Members of the community who use needles to administer medicine should dispose of them in containers supplied by their pharmacy. If the pharmacy does not offer this service, people can check with their local municipality or town office for specific guidelines on how and where to dispose of full sharps containers.

What do you do if you find a discarded needle?

  • Use a sharp container if available.  If you do not have one, use a sturdy container with a lid, like a bleach bottle or a pop bottle, using caution as thin plastic can pierce.  Do not use glass containers because they can break.  
  • Set the container on a stable surface.
  • Put on thick gloves that are not easily pierced.
  • Use a pair of tongs, pliers or tweezers to pick up the needle, DO NOT put the cap back on, hold the tip away from you, pick up the needle in the middle of the barrel or from the plunger end.
  • Place the needle in the container and tape the lid tightly closed (duct tape if possible).
  • Wash your hands.
  • Store the container in a safe place and away from children.
  • Drop off the container at your local public health office or pharmacy. You can also check with your local municipality or town office for specific guidelines on how and where to dispose of full sharps container.
  • Never put the container in the recycling bin.

What if you are accidentally poked by a needle?

Discarded needles pose a risk of infection. After a needle is used, some blood may remain inside the needle. Fortunately, most viruses exposed to open air will die within minutes to hours and the risk of contracting an infection is low. In the event you are poked, scratched or cut by a used needle or other sharp, follow the steps below:

  • Allow the puncture site to bleed freely.
  • Quickly wash the pricked area well with soap and water.
  • Do not squeeze the wound to promote bleeding.
  • Visit your nearest emergency department for follow up care.

If you have questions about the Southern Health-Santé Sud Harm Reduction Program, you may contact your local public health nurse. For more information, please visit Southern Health-Santé Sud Public Health-Healthy Living or the Harm Reduction Initiative.

This Info Bulletin is published in English only as a communication tool intended for the media. If you would like to communicate with someone in the official language of your choice regarding content of this Bulletin, please contact Southern Health‐Santé Sud Communications at 204‐424‐2329.

Ce bulletin est publié en anglais seulement comme outil de communication avec les médias. Si vous désirez communiquer avec quelqu’un dans la langue officielle de votre choix au sujet de son contenu, veuillez contacter l’équipe de communications de Southern Health‐Santé Sud au 204‐424‐2329.