Community Partners and Safer Drug User Supply Distribution

In addition to directly offering drug use equipment and supportive services to clients, the Works supports community organizations in Toronto to run their own harm reduction distribution program, by providing:

  • safer drug use supplies
  • training
  • program development and logistical support

These agencies are under a service agreement to use a harm reduction approach and distribute safer drug use supplies to their service users in a non-judgmental way. Keep reading if your agency is interested in becoming a harm reduction distribution program in Toronto!

Flow of Harm Reduction Supplies in Toronto

Toronto Public Health directly supplies sterile needles and biohazard bins free to harm reduction agencies in Toronto. The rest of the equipment (eg. cookers, tourniquets, filters, crack stems, crystal meth pipes, etc) are supplied by The Ontario Harm Reduction Distribution Program (OHRDP), a subsidiary of the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care AIDS Bureau. The Works acts as the Toronto hub from which all equipment is funneled to contracted harm reduction agencies.

Process for an Agency to Distribute Safer Drug Use Equipment

First, let us know!

Call The Works to speak with a staff member about your agency’s interest, need and capacity to include harm reduction equipment distribution. Due to our commitment to health equity and resource intensity of start-up, the sequence, and frequency at which new agencies are brought on board is based on an agency’s indication of need, readiness,  location, harm reduction capacity, population served, and type of service offered.

Do an Agency Self-Assessment

Some questions to help you assess your agency’s readiness to undertake harm reduction distribution: Do your service users use drugs? Which drugs are used and how? Have you had requests for harm reduction equipment? How does your organization, at every level, “feel” about harm reduction? Are you able to involve people with lived experience of drug use in your program design and delivery? Do you have harm reduction “champions” ready to take the lead? Can your agency commit to a harm reduction approach and sustain harm reduction distribution?

Complete the New Partner Agency Needs Assessment if your organization is interested in distributing harm reduction supplies and naloxone through contracting with The Works (City of Toronto).

Prepare a Description of Need

Provide The Works with a written statement of need and interest in harm reduction distribution. This brief document should include a profile of your agency (eg. services offered, population served, service hours, including when harm reduction supplies would be distributed, catchment area). It should also describe the outcome of your agency self-assessment and include information on the priority indicators mentioned above.

Attain “Executive” Support

All Toronto harm reduction agencies are required to sign a service agreement with the City of Toronto (Public Health) in order to distribute safer drug use equipment. This means that the organization must have their executive director or someone with signing authority legally commit to terms of a contract. Along with your Description of Need, interested agencies should also submit a letter of support from someone in a leadership position that will eventually sign the service agreement.

Continue Capacity Building

To prepare for harm reduction distribution, we recommend that you explore existing resources in Toronto for harm reduction education, training, and exposure. The Works can help get your agency connected. Also, continue to refer services users to The Works or other harm reduction agencies in Toronto for supplies, overdose education, and support.

Complete Contract and Training

This step depends on the agreed upon timing and activities for initiating harm reduction distribution at your agency. Before harm reduction distribution starts at your agency, your agency and the Medical Officer of Health at Toronto Public Health must sign the service agreement; your agency must sign a Declaration of Non-Discrimination Policy and share a copy of its insurance certificate. Additionally, all staff who will be involved or impacted by harm reduction distribution at your agency must receive initial training from The Works. This training will cover harm reduction and safer drug use equipment distribution, safer sharps disposal, online data entry, and ordering protocols.

Distribute Safer Drug Use Equipment

With the support of The Works and the Toronto harm reduction community, your agency will then be ready to start harm reduction distribution. Also, as an agency of The Works, you will become a part of the Needle Exchange Coordinating Committee of agency representatives that communicate frequently and meet quarterly to discuss emerging issues in harm reduction and engage in knowledge transfer.

View our slide presentation, Becoming a Harm Reduction Distribution Agency in Toronto for more in-depth information on the process and requirements for new agencies.

Agency Commitments

By signing a service agreement for harm reduction distribution, in summary, an agency is committing to:

  • provide safer drug use equipment to clients
  • use a Harm Reduction approach to services
  • be non-judgemental
  • provide support, counselling and education
  • provide referrals
  • ensure all staff are trained
  • ensure protocols (including occupational health and safety) are followed
  • arrange appropriate disposal of all used equipment
  • encourage staff to have their Hep B and other immunizations up to date

Eligible organizations (as defined by the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care) for the distribution of Naloxone will be able to obtain naloxone through the Works for distribution to their clients who are at risk of opioid overdose. For more information on the process and eligibility for an agency to distribute naloxone.