Rural Needle Exchange Project
Description of Program
What is the intervention/program/project?
The Rural Needle Exchange Project is a mobile needle exchange that serves rural/remote populations in Mainland Nova Scotia. People often hear about the program through word of mouth. A van, staffed with a driver and additional staff member, travels to different rural/remote communities throughout the week. Clients may be texted/called the day before and for some clients who we have served for years they just know Mainline is scheduled for that day and are confident Mainline will be there. Staff provide safer injecting and safer smoking equipment, as well as referrals to other health and community services. Mainline tries to hire previous ‘contacts’ who have past experience with illicit drug use and/or have real life experience. Staff connect with contacts through talking one-on-one and facilitate connection to community programs, public health nurses and health centers.
What is the goal/objective of the intervention/program/project?
The goal of the Rural Needle Exchange Project is to reduce the spread of HIV, HCV and other BBPs among populations engaging in high risk behaviours in rural Nova Scotia.
Why was the project originally intervention/program/project?
When the Mainline Needle Exchange opened in 1992, the staff members were all people who had real life experience. They were well connected with people who use drugs in the province. They began receiving requests to deliver supplies to communities surrounding Halifax. At the time, staff members used their own vehicles to deliver and pick up harm reduction supplies. It became too expensive for people to use their own vehicles without funding.
How was the intervention/program/project developed?
The project developed organically based on the connections that the staff at Mainline had with people who use drugs across the province. Mainline submitted a proposal in 1993 entitled “It Costs Less to Fund a Needle Exchange Program than to Treat One Person for HIV/AIDS.” This proposal transformed the mobile needle exchange into a more formal project.
OrganizationMainline Needle Exchange
- Harm reduction
- Harm reduction
- People who use drugs
Name: Diane Bailey
Position: Executive Director
Mainland Nova Scotia
The mobile needle exchange services rural areas in Mainland Nova Scotia including South Western and Northern Nova Scotia. The program provides on reserve services as well.
Project ResourcesAvailable upon request.
Resources for Program
- One full-time employee at the Mainline office, plus one part time staff.
- Two employees operating the mobile exchange.
- A van and fuel
- Harm reduction supplies
- Harm reduction supplies [The Health Authority funds for needles, alcohol wipes and condoms. Other supplies must be acquired through fund raising or project funding].
- Number of new and returning clients, gender of clients, total needles distributed and returned, total condoms distributed, total safer crack kits distributed, total referrals to education, housing, community services, legal and medical services.
Evaluation TermsOutput tracking
Change is possible. Once people are in regular contact with workers and supported, and when trust is built, people’s lives can be manageable with illicit drug use.
The Rural Needle Exchange Project is improving all the time and facilitating connections between contacts, community programs and health workers.
It is possible to see change over time. People who use drugs are more willing to access other support and health services in their area as opposed to waiting for mobile outreach to see them.
People are beginning to trust public health nurses/health clinics/reserve health clinics in large part due to the connection facilitated through Mainline.
It is important to never tell a contact ‘no.’ If Mainline cannot meet a person’s needs, it finds someone who can.
Initially, a challenge was the involvement of the RCMP in exchanges. On-going education is needed in rural communities. Stigma was initially a major challenge. In Southwestern Nova Scotia, people were very fearful of losing their jobs if people found they were using drugs.
Mainline is very glad to be offering this project and the hope it is that it can continue for many more years. However, the price of offering this project is going up (e.g., staffing, vehicle, supplies) and funding needs to be increased.