Okanagan health unit trying to keep people alive through harm reduction

The desire and means to help people engaged in high-risk behaviours is alive and well in the Town of Princeton.

The public health unit, located at the Princeton General Hospital, distributes harm reduction supplies, for free. The demand for these products has increased in the past couple of years, according to public health nurse Jacqueline Cimbaro.

“I think people are becoming more aware now that it’s on the internet. They can look up on the internet the sites where they can get harm reduction,” she said. “My predecessor said she didn’t get a lot of call before for harm reduction – once in a blue moon. With the overdose crisis now people are much more aware and we have people coming in all the time.”

A myriad of products is available. Drug users can source clean needles, sterile water to mix with drugs, sterile cookers, alcohol swaps, tourniquets, Vitamin C – which is a safe acid that is also used when preparing drugs – and pipe kits.

Drug users are at risk of life-threatening infections if they use dirty equipment, and there is always the chance of cross-contamination with a poison like Carfentanil.

Relatd: It’s okay to ask for Naloxone – nobody here is going to judge you

People participating in high-risk sexual activity can also get condoms at the office.

Cimbaro said she probably sees about six clients a week, and sometimes those people are passing through town and locating the health unit using a phone app.

“There are people that think we are enabling people to do drugs and that’s not what we are trying to do here. These people are engaged in high risk behaviours already and we are just trying to help them do it in a slightly less risky way… We would like them to stay as healthy as possible and hopefully turn their lives around. We like to keep them alive long enough to do that.”

She stressed that distributing supplies is one small piece of Interior Health’s overall harm reduction programs.

“This is part of a much wider strategy throughout Interior Health. It’s all of those polices – programs and practices that aim to reduce death and injury to people…Drug and alcohol councillors, mental health clinicians, sometimes there are people in the community, family supports workers – it’s multi-faceted.”

All clients are anonymous and Cimbaro does not ask personal questions. However she said as a front line worker she is sometimes given the opportunity to help someone to treatment.

“It’s just one little door, if you will, and some people just want to come and get their supplies and go. And then some people want to ask a few questions. Some people say ‘you know, I am at the end of my rope and I think I need help. And then I can refer them to the appropriate agencies.”

Display to spark conversation about overdoses in Okanagan

Cimbaro said fighting stigma is part of the job.

“We are also trying to send a message that their lives matter. They are people who have an illness, like any other illness, and this is addiction,” she said.

“Some people are afraid. They don’t have sympathy for these people. But I would say to those people: ‘If it were your daughter, or son, or your mother or your father, or your best friend, how would that change things for you?’”

Related: Another Princeton family devastated by drug death

The Spotlight contacted Interior Health for information about the costs of harm reduction supplies and programming, but that request could not be filled as the paper went to press.

To report a typo, email:
publisher@similkameenspotlight.com
.



andrea.demeer@similkameenspotlight.com

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Car crashes into semi-truck in West Kelowna

Highway 97 heading northbound by Boucherie Rd. closed

VegFest drops Okanagan Ice Pops as sponsor

Controversy stirs over a bacon-chocolate flavoured popsicle

Kelowna company wins contract for LNG Canada project in Kitimat

SK Form & Finish will work with equivalent of 4,000 fully loaded concrete trucks

Kelowna Chamber of Commerce commends council on tough decision

Kelowna city councillors decided to leave short-term rental bylaw as is, for now

Kelowna event raises thousands for Central Okanagan Food Bank

A Taste of Downtown raised $9,000 for the food bank

VIDEO: Showers are back in the forecast

Temperatures are expected to drop, paired with clouds and rain

Roadside device to weed out THC can’t detect impairment, B.C. lawyer says

‘This fact alone is likely to have serious implications for Canadians’ Charter Rights,’ lawyer Sarah Leamon warns

Sentencing for Okanagan man who sent Christmas card to shooting victim

A South Okanagan dangerous offender tacked on another nine months of prison time

Bizarre incident in Okanagan alley leads to arrest of Calgary man

A man was witnessed jumping on a car ‘acting like an ape’

VIDEO: Fire damaged Salmon Arm 7-Eleven demolished

7-Eleven representative says company interested opening elsewhere in Salmon Arm

Most British Columbians agree the ‘big one’ is coming, but only 50% are prepared

Only 46 per cent of British Columbians have prepared an emergency kit with supplies they might need

Kamloops RCMP bait program expands to include packages and bikes

Police are scatter items throughout the city in an attempt to lure thieves

Gucci Mane’s South Okanagan concert officially postponed

Agency is looking at new tour dates between the Sept. 3 and 15 in Penticton

B.C. man to pay Maxime Bernier’s People’s Party $20k over lawsuit

Federal judge shut down Satinder Dhillon’s ‘nonsensical’ motion to bar use of PPC name in byelection

Most Read