Harm reduction supplies will now be available at Turning Point Society of Central Alberta all through next week.
In years passed, Turning Point has been closed between Christmas and New Years, but due to a huge drop in supplies being handed out in recent years, they will be staying open.
When Turning Point is closed, needles can be picked up at the Safe Harbour Society, but still, their services aren’t being used as much in December compared with other months.
“What we found is that the amount of harm reduction supplies over the holidays doesn’t change, but when we close, they stop getting picked up. That means people are more likely to reuse the needles they have on hand,” said Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director for Turning Point Society of Central Alberta.
“Staying open will allow people to come and get their supplies.”
Red Deer social groups hand out an average of 44,000 needles per month and Turning Point alone, attends to approximately 1,000 clients.
“We need to be there to hand out naloxone kits, and be there for those using drugs,” said Vanderschaeghe.
“Holidays can be a terrible time for some people so it makes sense to be open.”
Vanderschaeghe said being closed for about five days over the holidays causes problems in a couple of different ways.
“If somebody is forced to either share or reuse their needles, it means they’re not as sharp. What happens is the needles start to barb, which causes damage to the skin and to the veins,” said Vanderschaeghe.
She also said when needles are shared, the risk of transmitting diseases increase severely.
“If you are sharing with someone who has hepatitis C or HIV, there’s a good chance you’ll catch those diseases,” said Vanderschaeghe.
“Needles are made to be used one time, and it says it right on the package.”
The more places that are made available to drug users, the better, said Vanderschaeghe.
“Best practice around for harm reduction is having services available in a variety of locations across the city. That way they can take advantage of the convenience,” said Vanderschaeghe.
As per usual, Turning Point won’t be open on the weekend.