JHS of Alberta The Reporter Harm Reduction
 

The John Howard Society supports any social policy that attempts to address the problems of individual drug misuse by relying on harm reduction rather than enforcement approaches. The Society acknowledges the features of harm reduction and recognizes that some misuse of mind altering substances is inevitable in today’s society. The Society also recognizes that the drug users decision to use drugs should neither be condemned nor supported. This recognition ensures that the rights and dignity of the user are respected. The extent of an individual’s drug misuse is secondary to the harms resulting from their misuse. Therefore, measures taken to address the misuse should focus primarily on those resulting harms.

The John Howard Society fully supports any services that assists drug misusers with monitoring their physical and mental health. Any service or policy that assists drug misusers with social barriers like maintaining social, employment or community relations are also supported by the Society. Furthermore, the Society encourages the development of services that offer voluntary, confidential treatment.

Practices in prisons which reflect public health practices and that apply in the community are endorsed by the Society. More specifically, the Society supports access to HIV testing, equipment and supplies that reduce the spread of diseases and confidentiality in prison practices. Finally, any drug enforcement policies that do not themselves contribute to harm are supported by the John Howard Society.

Harm reduction measures are a vital first step towards reducing the negative consequences of drug use, and as we embark on a new millennium, it is important that the relationships established to address drugs and drug related issues in Canadian society continue to grow. Although Canada has come far in terms of dealing with drugs from a harm reduction perspective, there is still plenty left to be done.

Highlighting a Harm Reduction Initiative
In Alberta, a consortium of organizations including Alberta Justice, other government departments and community groups like the John Howard Society of Alberta are working together to examine non-prescription needle use. The purpose of the consortium is to reduce the harm associated with non-prescription drug use and related issues. This three-year project is currently into its second year. During the first year and half, the consortium answered important questions concerning prevention, research, policy, and programming as they relate to non-prescription needle use. At this point in time, the consortium is attempting to put identifiable themes into actionable items. The consortium is working on 8 major themes: needle exchange and harm reduction program, surveillance, public and government awareness, law enforcement and incarceration, youth, addictions and mental health services, aboriginal groups and social and income supports for non-prescription needle users. As the project heads into its third and final year it is hopeful that through the commitment and cooperation of numerous agencies it can find innovative ways to reduce the harms associated with non-prescription needle use. The consortium is working simultaneously with Alberta Health’s HIV in Alberta 1998/99 – 2000 Health Strategy. This strategy outlines the concerns linked to HIV and the means to address those concerns. Injection drug use and HIV, education, care and treatment for offenders and ex-offenders are among the themes identified with action plans to be achieved by 2000 years end.

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