Where can you find information on COVID and Harm Reduction?

You can find information by visiting https://mhrn.ca/covid19. This page of includes Manitoba-specific and other relevant resources regarding COVID-19.


How much does this program cost?

A harm reduction program costs little compared to its savings. A 2015 review found that harm reduction services "can be cost-effective by most thresholds in the short-term and cost-saving in the long-term." A single needle costs about 10 cents, much less than treating the infections it can prevent. Conservative estimates place the ratio of savings-to-costs at about 4:1. Australia’s government estimated that their harm reduction programs had prevented approximately 21,000 hepatitis C infections and 25,000 HIV infections after about a decade of operation, saving about $7.8 billion. That’s a significant savings to taxpayers due to preventable health care expenses.

This approach is endorsed by major medical and legal organizations:

  • World Health Organization (WHO)
  • United States Institute of Medicine
  • Global Fund World Bank
  • International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies
  • UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Health

In addition, 84 countries support harm reduction in policy or practice. 77 countries have clean needle programs.


Does this encourage or enable more drug use?

No, it doesn’t. The goal of harm reduction programs is to help drug users stay healthier (and alive), and reduce their exposure to risk. Scientific studies have shown that harm reduction programs do not increase or even maintain drug use. Instead, the programs benefit those people who don’t want to quit, are not ready to quit, or have relapsed. As this blog post points out, harm reduction does 'enable' people to protect themselves and their communities from HIV, hepatitis, and overdose.


How does this kind of work make public health sense?

Here in Winnipeg, researchers found that people who use drugs were almost 4 times more likely to share their needles if they didn’t have a source of clean ones. This translates not only to more used needles on the street, but also to increasing rates of HIV and hepatitis in the community.


We recognise that it is a lot easier to take a lot of tiny steps rather than one or two huge steps (like quitting drugs on the spot). We talk with our clients about unsafe practices and ways of staying safe, and we can collect used needles so they do not end up on the street. Then, when and if a person needs support (like addictions treatment, etc.), they have someone they can talk to. In this way, harm reduction services make it easier for drug users to re-engage in society instead of catching an infection or succumbing to a drug overdose.


An international study showed that 29 cities around the world with harm reduction programs showed a decrease in HIV rates by 5.8% per year. At the same time, rates increased on average by 5.9% per year in 51 cities without a harm reduction program. As recently as April 2015, bans on needle-distribution in the United States have been linked to an outbreak of HIV. Harm reduction programs are high impact and benefit the entire community for little investment.


I'm trying to locate someone. Can you tell me if you've seen them?

No. We do not share information about who we provide services to. All services are confidential. We can get a message from you and put their name in the message section of our newsletter for up to three weeks.  If they come to us, we can give them the message from you.


Can you bring me a crack kit to my home?

We do not do home visits for safer crack use kits. You can pick one up from the Street Connections office, by flagging down our van, or by meeting us at one of our van stops. You can also visit one of our partner agencies. If you’re not sure where to go, you can call us during the day (204-981-0742) or check out our map anytime: http://streetconnections.ca/service_map.php.


I need supplies during the day. Where Can I get them?

During the day, call Street Connections at 204-981-0742 and we can tell you where to get supplies close to where you are. Or check out our online map 24 hours a day: http://streetconnections.ca/service_map.php


When I called Street Connections, there was no answer.

The schedule is a guide to tell you where you can find us.


You can find find the schedule at  https://streetconnections.ca/content.php?havigation_id=2278


Sometimes we are not able to follow the schedule exactly. For a number of reasons we may be late, miss a stop, or have to shut down early.


If you need to see us during the evening, make sure to call before 10:00 pm.


Do I have to give my name when I get supplies or a Sexually Transmitted Infection test?

Supplies are given out anonymously. You do not need to give your name. If you want testing, we need your name to put on the sheet that goes to the lab. Your health  information is confidential and protected by the Personal Health Information Act.


How does this approach affect crime?

In places where harm reduction programs exist, certain crimes, such as break-ins, burglaries, and violent crimes, actually saw a slight decrease. This is because we focus only on keeping users safe, while existing drug trafficking and dealing laws continue to be enforced.


Does this kind of program increase "dirty" needles in our community?

No. Harm reduction programs often recover as many needles as they distribute, which means fewer used needles discarded in the community.


Closing down needle distribution programs has been associated with outbreaks of HIV, yet no effect on drug use rates of discarded needles .


If you do find a used needle, we can help. For more information, check out [What to do when you find a needle?]


How can I start working or volunteering with Street Connections?

All hired positions are posted on the WRHA careers website: http://www.winnipeghealthregion.ca/careers/.


If you are interested in volunteering, contact WRHA Volunteer Services at 204-787-5078 or 204-787-7247 or email volunteer@wrha.mb.ca


What do you mean by harm reduction?

The International Harm Reduction Association defines harm reduction as “policies, programmes and practices that aim to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of the use of legal and illegal psychoactive drugs without necessarily reducing drug consumption.” This means that we help people who use drugs to become as safe and healthy as possible, without insisting that they quit in order to access important services.


Harm reduction is neutral and does not judge whether behaviour is ‘right’ or ‘wrong.’ We know that people who use drugs can develop abscesses or catch an infection by sharing used needles and syringes. We try to provide the tools people need to help keep themselves safer. This helps keep us all safer too.


Who runs Street Connections?

We are part of Healthy Sexuality and Harm Reduction, in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority’s (WRHA) Population and Public Health Program. Street Connections has been part of the WRHA since 2001. Before that, it was affiliated with other Winnipeg agencies.


Do you give out food or bus tickets?

We do not give out bus tickets. Click on the ‘Services’ link at the top of the page to see what we provide.