Four community health centres in Ottawa’s downtown have now installed vending machines that will be stocked with free sterile needles and crack pipes, in a bid to reduce the spread of drug-related infections.
The new machines are located at Ottawa Public Health centres that already offer needle exchange programs.
Each needle kit will contain three clean syringes, alcohol swabs, and a tie.
Clean needles and pipes can already be obtained from inside the health centres during regular business hours, but the new vending machines will make the supplies available 24 hours a day.
The goal of the program is to reduce the transmission of infections such as HIV and hepatitis B and C.
In order to encourage drug users to visit staff at the health centres, users will be required to obtain special tokens from health workers in order to use the machines.
Those who request tokens will also be provided with education about safer drug use, safe equipment disposal and other health and social services, as well as optional addiction treatment.
The machines are part of a pilot project that is expected to cost between $20,000 and $25,000.
Similar projects already exist in Las Vegas and Vancouver.
While there are costs to the program, every new case of HIV or hepatitis cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in medical treatment.
Studies have also shown that harm reduction programs lead to decreases in the rates of infectious diseases that addicts are more likely to get.