Programming Connection

Harm Reduction Dispensing Units 

Ottawa Public Health



  • HRDUs require maintenance (e.g., vandalism prevention, access to a power source). Organizations have found that the HRDU power source was being used by community members (e.g., to charge phones) and have addressed this issue by using a locked power source to ensure continual power to the HRDU or by placing the power source behind the bolted-down unit. Graffiti wipes have been successfully used when needed and there have been only a few instances of minor vandalism.
  • Tokens are sometimes diverted (e.g., used as change, used as bus fare). This can be addressed by using coloured tokens, although the cost is somewhat higher. Clients have reported losing tokens and there have been requests for more token access points.
  • The packaging used in the HRDU is nondescript and it has been suggested that providing more information on harm reduction on the machine could be beneficial.