Harm reduction set to become big focus in Yellowknife
Health care in Yellowknife could look very different in the next couple of years as health officials move towards adopting harm reduction in a number of areas.
Harm reduction is already happening in the city. Rebecca White's job as a Yellowknife public health nurse includes handing out clean needles to drug users in Yellowknife.
"We do stuff in terms of harm reduction that's always been done, just not as formally, but we are working on ways to change that," White says.
White says her philosophy is to prevent people who are already in risky situations from doing more harm, but there's no formal policy for health care workers to refer to in Yellowknife.
The Yellowknife Health and Social Services Authority wants to change that.
Nathalie Nadeau, the director of social programs for the authority, says it's looking for a strategy that applies right across it's policies and services.
"So it doesn't matter even if you work in child protection, mental health services or public health. We're all going to work under one overarching strategy of harm reduction," Nadeau says.
She that includes safe injection sites or handing out birth control and can even be something as simple as wearing a bicycle helmet.
Nadeau says rather than focusing on eliminating high-risk behaviours, like forcing people to stop drinking, you meet them where they're at. Her organization is already reviewing strategies and programs in other provinces and how they could be applied in Yellowknife.
Those could include handing out pregnancy tests in high schools and managed alcohol programs which regulate the amount of alcohol people can have.
Rebecca White says she's looking forward to the changes.
"There are some things we can be doing in the future, and hopefully we will be as part of our strategy, and it's really exciting for us to have harm reduction as part of our strategic plan," White says.
Nadeau says the health and social services authority plans to implement the new framework over the next two years.