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ID: 1384

Type of submission: Oral

Conference track: Practice

Topics: Aboriginal Communities and Harm Reduction; Harm Reduction Services and Service Provision

Presenting author: Sarah Levine

Presenting author biography:

Sarah Levine, RN, BScN, MSN is the HIV Nurse Educator for First Nations in the Vancouver Coastal Health (VCH) Region. She works in partnership with First Nations Health Authority to support HIV prevention, testing and treatment in 14 First Nations and in the urban Aboriginal community in VCH.

Experiential learning builds capacity for harm reduction in Indigenous communities in British Columbia, Canada

Sarah Levine, Len Pierre, Andrea Medley, Janine Stevenson, Andrea Derban

Many health care providers in First Nations communities require support to develop the skills, confidence and knowledge to provide harm reduction services in their communities. Harm reduction supplies often remain unused in health centres because staff have limited experience holding open, safe conversations about substance use and reaching out to people who use drugs. With the historic transfer of health services and programs to the First Nations Health Authority in BC, First Nations communities now have the opportunity to take control of their healthcare services and provide harm reduction programming in a culturally safe way.
British Columbia, Canada is on the territory of over 200 First Nations communities, many of them small, rural and remote. Due to colonization, residential schools, and lack of access to health services, First Nations people face disproportionately higher rates of HIV and are a priority population for HIV prevention and harm reduction services.
“Making Connections” is a three day workshop for nurses and other health service providers working in First Nations communities. The workshop includes a half-day experiential placement at a harm reduction service (i.e. needle distribution centre or HIV service-organization), as well as curriculum on substance use, HIV, Hepatitis C, harm reduction, overdose management, and engagement with people who use drugs.
57 health workers from 28 communities have now been trained at four workshops. Evaluation surveys collected during and after the workshops indicate that health workers highly value the opportunity to shadow at a harm reduction service, network with other care providers and regional harm reduction resources, and have open conversations about substance use.