New technology bringing harm reduction supplies to those who need it
They may look like vending machines, but this new technology coming to Winnipeg and northern communities will help remove barriers for those looking to access harm reduction supplies and services.
Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin (KIM), an organization that looks to improve health and wellness services for First Nations people in northern Manitoba, has received eight dispensation machines.
"These machines are used in just a few jurisdictions across North America," said Dr. Barry Lavallee, the chief executive officer of KIM.
Lavallee said the machines will be used primarily to dispense low-intervention harm reduction supplies, such as naloxone, clean needles and hygiene products.
Two machines are being set up at the Amoowigamig public washroom space in downtown Winnipeg, run by the Ma Mawi Wi Chi Itata Centre.
He said the remaining machines will be placed in communities around Manitoba, including in Churchill.
Unlike a vending machine, the supplies inside these units will be accessible by scanning a person's palm.
Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin has received eight dispensation machines which will be used primarily to dispense low-intervention harm reduction supplies. (Source: Keewatinohk Inniniw Minoayawin)
"We'll have the workers at the washrooms, we'll put their palms in there so that they can gain access for anybody who wants something," Lavallee said.
While only workers will be able to access the machines at this point, he said full public access may be coming in the future.
He said the goal of these machines is to give some autonomy for people who need harm reduction services.
"A lot of people who are challenged with using drugs or substances or alcohol, they might face a lot of oppression, you know, because people have a lot of ideas about people who live in a homeless environment and might be using substances," Lavallee said. "We want culturally safe and a racism-free access to services that will help their lives."
He said at this point, the machines will not be used for opiate agonist therapy, nor for safe prescribing. However, KIM is looking to possibly expand the program to deliver COVID-19 immunizations and provide rapid testing for syphilis and other sexually transmitted and blood-borne infections.
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