Over the past decade, Nova Scotia has experienced a rise in opioid drug misuse and overdoses. In response to this public health issue, the Deputy Ministers of Health and Wellness and Justice have actioned the formation of a Leadership Committee on Opioid Misuse and Overdose along with seven working groups, including a Harm Reduction Working Group (HRWG).
Harm reduction is defined as any policy or program designed to reduce drug-related harm without requiring cessation of drug use. Interventions may be targeted at the individual, family, community and society. The mandate of the HRWG is to develop and implement an action plan that will make recommendations for the following two harm reduction services: 1) needle disposal and distribution (NDD) services, and 2) safer consumption sites (SCSs).
Reporting to the Harm Reduction Working Group, the Atlantic Interdisciplinary Research Network: Social and Behavioural Issues in Hepatitis C and HIV/AIDS (AIRN) was commissioned in 2017 to prepare a report with recommendations for preferred provincial models for needle distribution and disposal (NDD) services and safer consumption sites (SCS). This work was overseen by a Steering Committee of key stakeholders with expertise in harm reduction.
The recommendations were formulated based on information gathered from two key sources: 1) review of academic and grey literature regarding NDD and SCS best practices, standards and service delivery models from other jurisdictions (in Canada and internationally); and 2) consultation with 47 existing harm reduction service providers and provincial-level stakeholders (e.g., health, justice, policing, pharmacy), and with seven people who use harm reduction services, to assess needs, gaps, challenges, opportunities and feasibility.
 The other 6 working groups are: Surveillance; Health Promotion; Access to Naloxone; Opioid Addiction Treatment; Enhanced Opioid Prescribing and Pain Management: Prescription Monitoring; and Justice/law Enforcement.