Programming Connection

Harm Reduction Dispensing Units 

Ottawa Public Health


Why Was the Program Developed?

A Harm Reduction Needs Assessment Forum was held in February 2014. Participants at the forum included harm reduction partners, people who work in mental health, addictions and treatment, those with lived experience, housing and shelter services and law enforcement. There was an identified need to have increased access to harm reduction supplies in Ottawa and 24-hour access was identified as a priority. Following this meeting there was significant community mobilization around increasing awareness of harm reduction services.

In 2016, the Ottawa Board of Health approved options to expand access to harm reduction services in the community, including the use of HRDUs to expand after-hours access. Ottawa Public Health looked at the use of HRDUs in other jurisdictions and found that similar approaches are used in Vancouver, as well as in parts of Europe and Australia, to expand access to safer drug injection and inhalation supplies.

Following this, Ottawa Public Health launched a consultation survey in the summer 2016 that was shared through a variety of mechanisms in the community. Groups that were consulted included residents, those that provide harm reduction services, service users, community health practitioners, businesses and other community stakeholders. Results indicated that 62% of respondents thought that the HRDU would be beneficial to the community (see report).

The pilot program launched in September 2017, the same time that a number of other local harm reduction service enhancements were initiated including supervised injection services.