Access to harm reduction supplies and testing for sexually transmitted and blood borne infections (STBBIs) is now a little easier for people in Prairie Mountain Health (PMH). For some, visiting a clinic or health centre to access the health care they need is not always an option. The new community outreach van initiative ‘Community Connections’ by the Public Health Team, brings services to people where they are at.
The current van is housed in Brandon, but travels to various locations around PMH, including Killarney, Dauphin, Rivers and Russell. Plans are underway to visit additional rural communities to further increase access to services. Every Wednesday afternoon the van stops at Princess Park in Brandon, between 1pm to 3pm. Staff are also willing to come to you and do testing or deliver supplies or pick up your containers of used needles. A second van, which will be located in Dauphin, is coming soon. To find out where and when the van will be visiting, visit the Prairie Mountain Health Twitter, Instagram or Facebook pages. You can also look for posters in your community, call or text 204-573-1503 or visit the Street Connections website.
Everyone and anyone is welcome to access the services provided. Routine sexual health testing is done using blood and urine samples. The Public Health Nurses on the van are specially trained to draw blood and it can be done out of the van. For the urine samples, clients take the container to a washroom to collect the sample. A small amount of the sample is then put into another container and the sample is sent to Cadham Lab in Winnipeg for testing. Blood samples are used to test for Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C, HIV and Syphilis. Urine samples are used to test for chlamydia and gonorrhea. Free condoms are also available for anyone who would like them.
Safer injection and smoking supplies are available at the van. These supplies are for anyone who may use injection or smoking substances and would like clean supplies. Naloxone kits (used to treat an overdose of certain substances) are available for anyone who uses opioids or for family and friends of people who do. Sharps containers for proper needle disposal can be picked up from the van, and returned once full for proper disposal.
Using the van to meet people where they are at gives everyone within the region access to quality care. This helps to improve the health of our communities and region as a whole. By offering access to naloxone kits, it is hoped that the amount of fatal overdoses in our communities will decrease. By offering safer injection and smoking supplies along with free condoms and sexual health testing, it is hoped that the spread of STBBIs will decrease.
If you see the van in your town or out on the streets please come over and say hi and check out the van. No appointment is needed to visit or receive services or supplies. All services and items are free of charge, and everything is anonymous except for the testing, as your name is required to order tests. If you would like to schedule a drop off appointment or testing in your area please call or text 204-573-1503 to schedule with them. The Community Connections van is here ‘Meeting you where you are at’.
Michelle Coupland and Erin Cole get ready to set up in Brandon.
Tricia Turner and Margaret Zamrykut with the van in Dauphin. (File photo)
Margaret Zamrykut and Tricia Turner set up with supplies outside of the Dauphin Friendship Centre. (File photo)