TRURO, N.S. – Harm reduction is more than a job for Karen Kittilsen Levine. Reducing the numbers of people dying from opioid addiction and blood-borne disease is something she’s determined to do.
“We began doing outreach in Pictou County on November 1 and have more than 40 clients, and we’re beginning outreach in Amherst within a few days,” said Kittilsen Levine, who is the harm reduction coordinator for the Northern Healthy Connections Society.
The organization collects used needles and distributes clean ones. It also provides condoms and information on blood-borne diseases.
“We’re trying to reduce the threat of transmission of Hep C and HIV. A lot of people aren’t aware of the danger of Hep C. It’s a very strong virus, and can live in the chamber of a needle up to two months.”
“More people are accessing our services. These people aren’t new to using injection drugs, it’s just that we’re connecting with them now.”
Between April 1, 2016 and March 31, 2017 the NHCS collected 18,973 used needles and distributed 28,773 new ones.
Between April 1, 2017 and January 31, 2018 there were 97,743 used needles collected and 60,638 new ones distributed.
“We’re non-judgmental and built a rapport with people,” said Kittilsen Levine. “We’re there when they’re ready to start a conversation about getting off opioids, and that has happened.”
Something she sees as a very positive step is the provincial ‘Take Home Naloxone’ program. The kits contain Naloxone, syringes, latex gloves, a mask, and instructions. They’re distributed, free of charge, through many pharmacies, once a person completes a short training program. A list of places where they’re available is online at http://www.nsnaloxone.com/where-to-get-one.html
Naloxone is used to reverse an overdose, keeping a person alive until emergency help arrives.