As a part of the harm-reduction program, Lloydminster now has an initiative specific vending machine at the Prairie North Plaza.
Stocked with pipes, syringes, alcohol swabs and other medical supplies, harm-reduction machines can be used to prevent the spread of STIs and other diseases.
Danielle Radchenko, Sexual Health Coordinator for SHA Lloydminster and surrounding areas, says these machines provide people with addictions with safe materials that can lower the impact on the health care system.
“What we wanted to do was increase access [to supplies],” said Radchenko.
“We knew that we didn’t have the greatest access for people to get supplies to safely use. Sharing supplies can put these people at risk for HIV, Hepatitis C and other blood infections that increase health care costs.”
Some residents in the community have expressed their concern by saying making these supplies accessible would promote drug use in the community.
These vending machines do not take cash, and the supplies in the vending machine can only be obtained by redeeming a specific token.
These tokens are available exclusively by speaking to someone at the Prairie North Plaza, the drop-in centre, or a peer.
Radchenko explains while the machines increase accessibility, they do not encourage or discourage the use of substances.
“They’re going to use whether they have clean supplies or ones that can potentially make them sick. The main goal of it is to reduce harm while people are in active addictions. If people are choosing to use, we want them to be able to do that without becoming sick with illnesses that take them to the hospital.”
There is already one harm-reduction machine in North Battleford that has been in place since 2018.
Radchenko mentions having the machine in the community has shown results that the machines have been effective in helping those with addictions.
“We had a goal to decrease sharing [supplies] by 30 per cent by the end of 2021. By the end of 2019, we had already seen a 26 per cent decrease.”
Radchenko says there has been an increase in people connecting with counsellors as a byproduct of the harm reduction machine in North Battleford.
She adds by requiring people with addictions to see someone in a medical program to get the token, they begin to feel comfortable in the facilities, and build connections with people and lead them to seek help.
“People who have never felt comfortable coming into the clinics for supplies would get them elsewhere. They’re starting to come by themselves. By building the relationship, they will feel more comfortable with them once they realize they are just there to help.”
The Harm-Reduction Program is a peer-led program.
It is run by an individual who has lived through an addiction experience who is now sober and in recovery.
Radchenko claims this allows the program to gain the perspective of an addict and act in a way that will lead to recovery.
“We’re really trying to connect with them and get a feel for what really would help them by talking to them and having them involved in the program. The vending machines are stocked by people who used to use drugs or are currently recovering,” adds Radchenko
“We can’t fix their problems for them, but we can help them navigate through that so they can make those decisions when they are ready.”
Lloydminster’s harm-reduction machine first made its appearance in March this year.
Before its arrival, a survey was conducted to see how many people shared supplies between others.
After the machine has been in the area for six months, another survey will be held to see how effectively it is working.