Staying safe in a risky world

An Important Guest post by Tim Mcsorley. A new project involving the National Film Board of Canada, The YouthCo AIDS Society, Edmonton's iHuman Youth Society and Youth Restorative Action Project. Front paged to get some well deserved attention! -pale

The debate around harm reduction in Canada is a complex one. At it's simplest, harm reduction is any policy or practice that recognizes that sometimes people cannot simply walk away from risky situations - homelessness, poverty, drug addiction - but rather adopt ways to minimize risk in their daily lives.

Harm reduction is most often associated with drug use, and particularly needle exchanges and supervised injection sites like InSite in Vancouver. But harm reduction goes a lot further than that: it's outreach programs, employment training, counselling and support services.

As the debate over InSite in particular heated up over the summer, a lot of words were spilled across the country. But missing from the discussion were the voices of people who actually use harm reduction services and adopt these practices in their daily lives.

Some of those voices are finally getting a platform, though, with the launch of Playing It Safe, a website featuring short documentaries filmed by youth living in at-risk sitautions and coming from marginalised communities. Working with the National Film Board, Vancouver's YouthCo AIDS Society and Edmonton's iHuman Youth Society and Youth Restorative Action Project, they each produced a series of webisodes that explore how they implement risk reduction in their daily lives, whether concerning drug use, homelessness or learning to cook.

You can follow each of the youth as new episodes are posted over the next two months; several are already up. We're hoping that these films go beyond the site and serve to help broaden the discussion of what it means for young people to stay safe and how we can better provide services and support, whether we are friends, family or simply supporters. You can leave your comments and thoughts on the site, or follow us on our blog - that's where I'll be writing for the next few months, updating folks on the site and (hopefully) provoking some discussion. I'll also be sure to check back in here and post updates along the way too.


Awesome, Tim

Thanks for letting us know about this important project. I've watched many of the short films already and will go back for the rest when time permits.

Shine a light!

"At it's simplest, harm

"At it's simplest, harm reduction is any policy or practice that recognizes that sometimes people cannot simply walk away from risky situations - homelessness, poverty, drug addiction - but rather adopt ways to minimize risk in their daily lives."

THANK YOU for this definition. So many people don't get harm reduction and when I try to explain it, people become alarmed. Like it's "enabling."

That's one ...

... hearty 'Atta boy' for you, Tim. Getting the word out ( ie. factual information ) is a good thing. And from persons in/on the street will really make the info memorable. Thanks for posting.

Meanwhile, back on the flatlands ...

The Premier of Saskatchewan, Brad Wall, is limiting the number of needles given out at one time in our needle exchange program.  He has his reasons.  An underlying one is cost, I suspect.

"We are well over -- well over -- almost six times greater in terms of the amount of needles we will give out in a Regina or a Saskatoon versus for example Calgary or versus even the city of Winnipeg," he said.

The greater number of needle exchanges is because of a different nature of injection drugs used in Saskatchewan than further west. There could be other reasons also, such as a more widely available distribution of exchange locations.

The real "stated" reason:

Premier Brad Wall said capping how many needles can be handed over at one time means addicts may visit health workers at exchange sites more often, creating more opportunities for them to seek treatment.

While there is a certain logic on the face of the reasoning the result is a step backward.

The bottom line is that if a user is out of clean needles he will simply re-use a needle.  That is exactly the behavior that needs to be eliminated.  Clean needles reduce health risks, and therefore health costs.  It ain't rocket science Brad.  Yeah, sure, it would be good if users got off the stuff, but a couple of extra trips to the exchange
site, if they are in fact made, doesn't raise the chances enough to offset the increased risk that a dirty needle will be used.

Wall is micro-managing this issue, going against advice from a " government-ordered review " and counter to what workers in the trenches think is valuable.

I contend that Wall is just playing to his conservative base. 

Come on there short stuff - govern in and for the real world.



harm reduction

I remember when the first methadone clinic opened at the Royal Vic in Montreal in the 70's. A woman I knew who worked there had to make the harm reduction argument personally every day.

Some kind of morality says "I won't help unless they stop drugs first. Let's save fetuses instead."

Harm reduction is admitting you are helping someone with a "flaw" stay alive. Because LIFE MATTERS. I don't live a drug or alcoholed life myself but something inside makes me turn back and reach for that other guy with his flaw and whatever else comes.

Some people are not strong enough to just go to church and be reborn out of an alcoholic haze.

There is some harm reduction going on that I don't like. Our Women's Olympic Ski Jumpers WANT to hurl themselves off the face of a mountain in Whistler. I think they are insane but I'd never deny them the right to challenge death.

Someone harm reduced them out of that challenge. That sucks for them and little girls around the world.