Island Health has installed new “Care and Connection Kiosks” outside three Vancouver Island hospitals, which anonymously dispense free harm reduction supplies, such as drug testing kits and naloxone.
The health authority says the medical supplies the kiosks offer are some of the most commonly requested items at emergency departments in the region.
In total, the kiosks can dispense take-home drug testing strips, syringes, safe disposal containers, naloxone kits, wound care supplies and condoms.
The three new kiosks are located outside the emergency departments of the North Island Hospital in Campbell River, Nanaimo Regional General Hospital and Victoria General Hospital.
“We know that shame and blame can keep people who use drugs from asking for help and not accessing the means they need to stay safer – which can often be fatal,” said Jennifer Whiteside, Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, in a release Wednesday.
“These new Care and Connection Kiosks are discreet and always open, making it easier for more people to get the life-saving supplies and treatment information they need where and when they need it,” she said.
‘Will absolutely save lives’
Besides offering supplies, the kiosks can also give people information on substance use treatment, regional mental health supports, community services and how to connect with local services, according to Island Health.
The health authority adds that the kiosks will be open 24 hours a day starting by the end of the month.
The kiosks are intended to be accessible for people who don’t get off work until the evening, or for those who are looking for more anonymity.
“We’re missing a real target group, people working in trades, primarily men, who don’t want to be associated with harm reduction services because they worry they could be seen and then lose their job,” said Andy Speck, a member of the ‘Namgis First Nation who will help maintain the kiosk in Campbell River.
“Having a kiosk like this is amazing and will absolutely save lives,” he said.
According to Island Health, research on harm reduction supply kiosks shows that they can reduce overdose rates, decrease new HIV and Hepatitis C infections, and are more effective at distributing naloxone and drug testing strips than in-person services.
As of Aug. 31, 304 people have died of toxic drugs in the Island Health region since the start of this year.