"I could be dead right now," said Heather Koller, speaking at a Calgary drug conference Saturday.
Koller started injecting drugs when she was 15. Now clean, she's working on an initiative targeting those who are most influential within the drug community: dealers.
The idea of harm reduction is a central theme at this weekend’s conference at the University of Calgary. It's being put on by the Canadian Students for Sensible Drug Policy group.
Koller, from Thunder Bay, Ont., says her project involves giving dealers clean needles to distribute to clients.
"Harm reduction is non-judgmental. It meets people where they're at," said Koller.
Scott Bernstein is one of the lawyers who fought for Vancouver's supervised injection site, Insite. He hopes to see more initiatives like Insite across the country.
"Harm reduction allows the person to live long enough to get to a place in his or her life where he can take the steps to treatment if it's going to go that way in detox," said Bernstein.
Some staff members of Safeworks, the only harm reduction program of Alberta Health Services, were at the conference. The organization works with high risk Albertans using tools like education, testing, vaccinations and needle exchanges.
In August, Alberta Health Services forced Safe Works to stop handing out crack pipes.