A mobile harm reduction distribution service is now operating in Cache Creek every Tuesday from 1:30 to 3 p.m., and Spotted Fawn Minnabarriet, RN — a public health nurse at the Ashcroft Hospital and Health Site — says that in addition to providing smoking, injection, and naloxone kits, the service is there to give information and act as a referral source for anyone who needs mental health and counselling support or is looking for opioid assistance treatment.
Minnabarriet operates the service along with Nancy Kendall, who is there to provide administrative support, and it is now in its third week. It is located on the upper level of the parking lot of the Cache Creek Community Hall, and the pair stress that it is not a safe injection site.
“We offer a light snack when we have donations,” says Minnabarriet, noting that Horsting’s Farm has donated apples and cookies to the program. “We have the kits, and can provide naloxone training. The idea is to get a kit into every household, so if you don’t have one, you can come and get one.”
They also provide containers for disposing of used sharps, so that they do not end up in the community. “With more harm reduction supplies going out we wanted to provide sharps containers, so we’re likely to see fewer used needles in public areas,” says Minnabarriet. “It’s important to keep sharps out of public spaces.” The containers hold up to 10 sharps each, and do not have to be returned to a health site, hospital, or clininc; they can be disposed of in a garbage can.
She decided to bring the mobile distribution service to Cache Creek after The Equality Project stopped distributing the supplies in the community. “It wasn’t a service they wanted to provide, but we realized there was still a need because they were distributing a lot of kits.”
While there are sites in Ashcroft that distribute harm reduction supplies (the hospital, pharmacy, and the Elizabeth Fry Society), Minnabarriet says that when The Equality Project pulled out there was nowhere to get kits in Cache Creek. “We decided we had to try to break down that transportation barrier.”
Public health in Ashcroft serves that community, Cache Creek, and Spences Bridge, but the services provided by the mobile distribution unit are available to anyone who needs them.
“We wanted to make it as anonymous as possible, so people can come and grab a kit,” says Minnabarriet. “We don’t take names or numbers or pictures, we just want to break down barriers in order for people to have access to resources. We won’t ask people where they’re from, and they don’t have to confirm their physical address at all.”
The pair have noticed that a lot of people driving by who see them in the parking lot take a second look out of curiosity, but don’t stop in to ask about the service. “We chat with anyone who walks by,” says Kendall. “We’re here to provide what’s needed and be a couple of friendly faces who provide conversation and information.”
Minnabarriet says the service hasn’t brought any more people to the area: “It’s a pick-up site, not a hangout site. It’s a safe place to get supplies. We’ve been handing out supplies at the Ashcroft Hospital for a couple of years now, and we jumped in here because we think it’s an important part of the community.”
The distribution service will be ongoing every Tuesday for the foreseeable future. “We don’t know about the colder months; we’ll cross that bridge later,” says Minnabarriet. “There’s still a stigma around opioid use, and we think it’s really important for us to provide a non-judgmental service.”
Anyone who would like to learn more about the mobile distribution service, or obtain contact information, can drop by the site on Tuesday afternoons and pick up a business card.