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What's the Harm in Harm Reduction? - 2018 Conference


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*** SOLD OUT *** Please see below for details how you can watch parts of the conference via Facebook Live!

Internationally renowned researcher and harm reduction pioneer, Dr. Mark Tyndall, will be coming to Chatham, ON to deliver a keynote address at the upcoming ‘What’s the Harm in Harm Reduction’ (WHHR) conference being held on Thursday, 2018 MAR 29, at the John D. Bradley Convention Centre.

Dr. Mark Tyndall has dedicated his career to studying HIV, poverty, and drug use in multiple places around the world, starting with Nairobi, and now in Vancouver. An early advocate for harm reduction programs, Mark was at the forefront of North America’s first legally sanctioned supervised injection facility, INSITE, established in Vancouver in 2003. Since then, studies have shown that safe injection sites save lives, reduce transmission of disease and help people access addiction treatment and other medical services. A proponent of evidence-based public health policy and interventions, Mark has authored over 250 academic papers and has received multiple honors for his work. He is currently the Executive Director of the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control and a professor at the School of Population and Public Health at the University of British Columbia.

The ‘What’s the Harm in Harm Reduction’ conference will feature an additional 15 presenters who are on the cutting edge of harm reduction based interventions in Ontario, including several members who have been appointed by the Minister of Health to serve on the Opioid Overdose Emergency Task Force with the Government of Ontario.

Steve Pratt, Chatham-Kent Harm Reduction Program Manager & Co-Chair of the WHHR Conference Planning Committee said, “Since being appointed to the Opioid Overdose Emergency Task Force last November, I have a much greater understanding of the challenge we are up against. The data tells us that the Eire St. Clair LHIN region will not be exempt from casualties in this crisis and there are interventions we could be implementing to help reduce and prevent casualties from occurring. In working on the frontline of the harm reduction effort in Chatham-Kent, I know that our region is struggling to get up-to-speed with the latest research and interventions that are available to help combat this crisis. It is evident that no one single person or organization will be able to slow this crisis down – we must work together. So, the first big step we as a community needed to take, in my opinion, was bringing the information to our community. It’s really hard to ask yourself as an established service provider ‘how do I know what I don’t know’ – ‘is my toolbox big enough to hold all of the tools I need to help someone dealing with problematic substance use’ – and ‘are the tools that I’m working with the most recent evidence-based tools available’?”

Pratt added that here in Chatham-Kent we are seeing drug related use and harms that exceed national and provincial averages. “For example, through our Needle Syringe Program’s core site in Chatham, we served 981 individuals a total of 2774 times in 2017. The evidence shows that 0.3% of the Canadian population aged 15 and older are injection drug users [http://www.catie.ca/fact-sheets/epidemiology/injection-drug-use-and-hiv-canada]. 981 unique individuals represents 1.1% of the same population in Chatham-Kent – and that doesn’t include any contacts we have at our nine satellite sites throughout the municipality, or through our mobile health services program or secondary contacts we make through our clients – so we know that number is underrepresented. In total, we had a little over 7100 interactions with our harm reduction services in 2017 in Chatham-Kent alone.”

Jordynne Lindsay, a Chatham-Kent Public Health Nurse specializing in harm reduction and co-chair of the WHHR Conference Planning Committee, believes from the research evidence that is available, harm reduction interventions will aid in preventing the spread of blood-borne infections, such as HIV and Hepatitis C.

“In 2016, there were 50 confirmed cases of Hepatitis C in Chatham-Kent, which is nearly double the provincial rate. The year before we saw a peak of 70 cases. For the past eight years the incidence of Hepatitis C in our community has been higher than the rest of Ontario” states Lindsay. “Of those cases, we know that 77% of reported cases of Hep C are attributed to sharing of injection drug use equipment.”

Pratt added, “Harm reduction programs also make solid fiscal sense for the tax payer. The cost to cure a single Hep C infection in Ontario ranges from $45,000 - $100,000, with the average cost being $80,000. That is only the cost for medication, not for any emergency room visits, specialist visits, counselling services, etc. For HIV, the average cost for medication alone is $250,000, with an estimated economic loss of $1.6 million over the person’s lifetime. The entire cost of our harm reduction program in Chatham-Kent is roughly the same as curing two Hep C infections. The evidence clearly demonstrates the earlier someone is able to access harm reduction programs, the most cost effective and fiscally responsible it will be as well as the more likely the individual will experience a positive health outcome.”

The conference will tackle several key issues throughout the day with the root issue being the stigma that surrounds substance use and the barriers that it creates to someone trying to move towards recovery. It is calling for drug policy to be guided by evidence and data, not by a desire to punish perceived immorality by using ‘disabling’ and social rejection as treatment goals. If we truly believe that addiction is a health problem and not a moral weakness, we need to treat it like one.

The evidence from harm reduction programs where people who use substances are treated with compassionate and respectful care demonstrates that when people feel valued rather than judged, regardless of whether they continue to take drugs, they begin to value themselves more and are more likely to seek treatment. Once people feel safe and cared for, it’s much easier to make changes that otherwise scare them.

In response to the increasingly adulterated drug supply hitting the streets, free ‘Save a Life’ training is being offered directly after the conference to attendees where they will learn how to prevent, recognize, and respond to an opioid overdose. This training is available to the community at-large through your local pharmacy with a valid health card or at the Clinical Services office at the Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit at 177 King Street East in Chatham where no health card is required. You can find a Naloxone trainer near you at: https://www.ontario.ca/page/where-get-free-naloxone-kit.

The conference organizers are proud of the educational opportunity they have been able to pull together for the Lambton-Kent-Essex region. This was originally a conference planned for 40-60 people - that due to overwhelming demand - has now expanded to host over 400 conference participants. We were excited that we were able to live our values and plan a truly collaborative and collective action conference free of charge to participants to ensure that finances would not be a barrier to accessing this information as the conference also welcomes people who use substances to attend as well. Our planning committee went out and fundraised every penny that was needed to make this opportunity possible for our community. We’re proud to announce the presenting partners for the conference are:

• Chatham-Kent Public Health Unit | Municipality of Chatham-Kent
• AIDS Committee of Windsor (ACW) | AIDS Support Chatham-Kent
• Women & HIV/AIDS Initiative
• Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN)
• University of Windsor
• United Way of Chatham-Kent
• Women's Leadership Council
• Canadian Mental Health Association Lambton Kent
• Adapt Pharma
• N-Powerment NCLEX / CPNRE Test Prep
• Chatham-Kent Health Alliance
• Yourtv Chatham
• Chatham-Kent Drug Awareness Council
• House of Sophrosyne
• Windsor-Essex Community Health Centres
• Erie St. Clair Local Health Integration Network

The conference has already been sold over capacity into ‘standing room only’ seating. While no further tickets are available, two portions of the conference, Dr. Tyndall’s keynote address (8:55 a.m. – 10:30 a.m.) and the Overdose Crisis Fireside Chat (12:30 pm – 1:45 p.m.) – a Q&A conversation between experts in multiple fields – will be broadcast live on YourTV Chatham’s Facebook page [https://www.facebook.com/yourtvck/].