The ACW expands their harm reduction initiative
By Dawn Gray
A harm prevention program offered by the AIDS Committee of Windsor has recently been expanded into the west end with plans to further expand into Leamington.
Since its inception in 1993, the ACW has exchanged over 3.5 million needles. The harm reduction initiative is a program dedicated to providing information, awareness and material for safe drug use and safe disposal, while also offering referrals to programs and treatment centres. The program works by reducing harm not only to drug users, but to the community as well.
According to the ACW’s Outreach Coordinator, Byron Klingbyle, any person can come into either location to request clean equipment for personal drug use. Injection kits are given for those who use drugs intravenously and inhalation kits are given for those who use drugs by smoking.
“It’s not just about giving free equipment, it’s about giving them information as well,” said Klingbyle. “We get to engage with those people that some other agencies wouldn’t.”
People who use these types of drugs will often share equipment such as glass pipes and needles, putting them at a higher risk of contracting diseases like Hepatitis C and HIV. The program is designed to reduce that risk by offering free, clean and safe equipment to those who need it. The program does not, however, promote or encourage drug use.
“My primary purpose is to see recovery,” said Klingbyle. “This is the hard end of recovery because they’re actively using. We don’t promote drug use. The people are going to use, so we do promote safe use. You’re going to do it, then you’re going to do it. Here’s some clean equipment, use it once, you need more I’ll give you more,” said Klingbyle.
Another objective of the program is to keep neighbourhoods clean by offering safe disposal of the drug use equipment at both the downtown and west end locations.
“It came from a public outcry,” said Klingbyle. “The public was finding needles on the ground.”
Jennifer Craig lives in the Glengarry Housing Complex located in downtown Windsor and has seen the need for this program firsthand. She has come across discarded needles in the past and she worries about her children finding needles and other drug equipment on the ground around her home.
“I worry about my kids and other kids finding needles and picking them up,” said Craig. “What if they poke themselves? I don’t know what I would do.”
Klingbyle said last year the centre gave out almost 500,000 needles and almost 400,000 were returned for a “very good” return rate of 77 per cent. The reception desk is fitted with a hole and hazardous material bin underneath where needles can be disposed of anonymously.
“A lot of my clients are already stigmatized so they come here to return. That means less needles being found in public,” said Klingbyle. “And the more people who use cleanly and safely is a cost reduction to the health care system.”
The program at both locations is funded by the Windsor Essex County Health Unit. The ACW has recently applied for a grant to expand the program into Leamington.
“It’s all about reducing harm to the people and to the community,” said Klingbyle. “And it doesn’t mean they can’t change. These people who do drugs, they’re still people.”