Mobile X Mobile Needle Exchange
Description of Program
What is the intervention/program/project?
Mobile X works on a cell phone basis. Clients call when they need supplies and other support. A location is set up (e.g., gas station, parking lot, house) and the client is met. VARCS uses a white, unmarked van that allows for the discrete distribution and collection of harm reduction supplies.
The Mobile X mobile needle exchange offers clean harm reduction supplies, including needles, sterile water, cookers, alcohol wipes, cotton filters, ties, personal biohazard containers, safer sex supplies, and safer smoking kits. The Mobile X program staff will also give clients rides to methadone clinics, food banks and medical visits, as well as referrals to other medical and social services. Important one-on-one counselling and support, and referrals, happen en route to appointments.
What is the goal/objective of the intervention/program/project?
The goal is to stop the spread of HIV and other BBIs among people who use illicit drugs. Providing people with information and support to use as safely as possible, including information on drug alerts, is an additional goal. The program also aims to keep people connected and decrease social isolation.
Why was the intervention/program/project originally developed?
The program was developed to respond to a need in the community to offer additional support to harm reduction organizations in Victoria. There was a need in the community for mobile needle exchange that could reach people outside of Victoria.
How was the project developed?
VARCS was approached to develop a mobile needle exchange after the release of a report that illustrated that the most effective way to reach IDU was to go to where they are. VARCS wanted to provide a service that could hit ‘hot spots’ as well as increase accessibility for those who may not access fixed site services. It was decided that a cell phone would be used to increase accessibility. VARCS also chose to use magnetic signs for the van that could be removed when entering residential areas, providing increased confidentiality upon request. Once the word had spread, Mobile X was serving a larger number of “residential” users than street users – i.e. those who chose not to access the fixed site and who lived more remote, quiet lives while maintaining their addiction and housing.
OrganizationVictoria AIDS Resource & Community Service Society (VARCS)
- Harm reduction
- Harm reduction
- People living with HIV/AIDS
- People who use drugs
Vancouver Island, British Columbia
The catchment area includes Victoria and the Western Communities: Colwood, Langford, Metchosin, Sooke, and the Highlands. Some of these areas are considered rural and others are considered remote in relation to access to harm reduction and other medical services.
Project ResourcesPostcards with harm reduction messaging.
Resources for Program
The Mobile X van.
Harm reduction supplies not covered by Health Authority (i.e., glass stems).
Harm reduction supplies.
- Needles in/out and distribution numbers of all supplies, gender of clients, geographical location, estimated age, number and types of referrals, whether or not people are in supported housing, and secondary distribution.
Evaluation TermsOutput tracking
There is a large group of people that is not being served in rural/remote areas, that have mobility issues and cannot access the services they need. The people who access Mobile X are extremely socially isolated and not connected to any other service provider.
It takes time to build trust and rapport. The time that people spend in the van on the way to appointments/services is an opportunity for one-on-one counseling and referrals. Many people do not have access to the one-on-one connection and just asking people about their day and allows people to open up and talk about other issues.
Referrals to Mobile X are often through word of mouth. A few key contacts do secondary distribution to others in rural/remote areas.
In the beginning, it was a challenge to meet the needs of people in different locations inside and surrounding the city within a reasonable time.
It was initially challenging to develop policy and procedures for how to provide the service – i.e. Do we meet people outside or will we enter homes? Do we have fixed routes and times or do we ‘play it by ear’?
It was a challenge to ensure adequate staffing of the van.
In the past, insecure funding presented a challenge in terms of buying harm reduction supplies that were not covered by the health authority at the time.
It was a challenge to gain momentum in rural/remote areas surrounding Victoria. Mobile X began receiving calls after staff had been introducing themselves, handing out their pamphlets and meeting other agencies for a year.