The Harm Reduction pillar aims to reduce harms to individuals and communities resulting from problematic substance use. It focuses on the harm that results from drug use rather than the drug use itself.

Who is involved?

Some of the agencies represented on the Harm Reduction pillar committee include ACCKWA, Sanguen Health Centre, the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, House of Friendship and the Cambridge Shelter Corp. The pillar coordinating committee is chaired by Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services.

What work is being done?

This pillar has prioritized the expansion of harm reduction programming, increasing public awareness of substance use and overdose, and increasing access to safe needle disposal options. There are three working groups within this pillar: the Overdose Prevention Work Group, the Disposal Work Group, and the Supervised Consumption Services Implementation Work Group.

Examples of strategies in the Harm Pillar

  • Expansion of the Needle Syringe Program and Outreach. Needle syringe programs provide access to sterile equipment and provide opportunities for people to receive other supports including referrals, health counselling and access to safe sharps disposal.
  • Expansion of the Naloxone Distribution Program (NDP). Through the NDP, naloxone training kits are available to people who use substances and friends and family members of people who use substances. In 2017, NDP have been extended to shelters, community health centres, AIDS organizations, and outreach centres. In 2018, further expansion has made this medication available to first responders free of charge and to hospitals.
  • Overdose Awareness Day Activities. International Overdose Awareness Day is an annual event held in August in Kitchener and Cambridge that provides an opportunity for people who have lost someone to overdose to gather and commemorate their loss in a supportive environment. Individuals in attendance can access naloxone training and a kit at the events.
  • Exploring Consumption and Treatment Services. A study to explore the feasibility of consumption and treatment services (excluding inhalation) in Waterloo Region is currently underway. Visit the Supervised Consumption Services page for more information.

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