Ottawa needle-vending machines called a success, but resident says area's now unsafe
Published Sunday, October 29, 2017 3:35PM EDT
Last Updated Sunday, October 29, 2017 8:19PM EDT
A harm-reduction pilot program that includes safe-injection sites and needle and pipe vending machines in Ottawa is proving popular with drug users, but one local resident says it’s making her neighbourhood unsafe.
Ottawa Public Health says the machines installed outside health centres in mid-September have dispensed more than 600 needles and 250 stems for smoking drugs.
The goal of the pilot project is to reduce the transmission of infectious diseases such as HIV and Hepatitis C, which people can get from sharing needles and pipes.
"The client feedback has been very good, with clients reporting that the machine provides access to harm reduction supplies when other services are closed and that the machines are easy to use," said OPH’s Donna Casey in a statement.
John Becvar, a harm reduction outreach worker, said the machines help give people “access the supplies that they need at any time of the night.”
The vending machine outside Ottawa Public Health’s Clarence Street facility in the Byward Market neighbourhood has proven most popular.
But longtime area resident Laura MacDonald says that while she supports harm reduction, the influx of injection drug users in Byward Market is making her long-time home unsafe.
She said she has found people using drugs on her doorstep and has taken photos of a large number of needles discarded haphazardly on the ground. She says she has called city officials 13 times in one month.
“There’s more people who are dealing drugs. There’s more prostitution. There’s more … things you wouldn’t see on a regular basis, but they’re happening on a daily basis,” she said.
MacDonald said she wants Ottawa’s city council to reject a request to make the Clarence Street vending machines permanent.
Ottawa Public Health says drug users must receive special tokens through its harm prevention program that can be used at any of the dispensing units.
The harm prevention program also educates users about safer drug, safe equipment disposal and other health and treatment services available.
There were about 40 opioid drug-related deaths in Ottawa in 2016, according to Public Health Ontario.
With a report from CTV Ottawa’s Annie Bergeron-Oliver