In accordance with our anti-oppression framework, LCIH embraces the philosophy, approach and principles of harm reduction. This involves taking action through policy and programming to reduce the harmful effects of behaviour. It involves a range of non-judgmental approaches and strategies aimed at providing and enhancing the knowledge, skills resources and supports for individuals, their families and communities to make informed decisions to be safe and healthy.
To put harm reduction into practice, it is important to convey acceptance and to support individuals to recognize they are the experts in their own lives. When dealing with behaviours that may result in harm to an individual or others, staff will engage in risk assessment, and will involve the client in discussions and solutions whenever possible.
- LCIH will use the following Guiding Principles of Harm Reduction:
- PRAGMATISM: Harm reduction accepts that the nonmedical use of psychoactive or mood altering substances is a universal phenomenon.
- HUMAN RIGHTS – Harm reduction respects the basic human dignity and rights of people. No judgment is made on an individual’s right to self-determination and supports informed decision making. Emphasis is placed on personal choice, responsibility and management.
- FOCUS ON HARMS – The priority is to decrease the negative consequences of behaviours which may cause harm to that individual or others.
- MAXIMIZE INTERVENTION OPTIONS – Harm reduction recognizes that people benefit from a variety of different approaches. There is no one approach that works reliably for everyone. It is providing options and prompt access to a broad range of resources that helps keep people alive and safe.
- PRIORITY OF IMMEDIATE GOALS – Harm reduction starts with “where the person is” in their life, with the immediate focus on the most pressing needs.
- CLIENT INVOLVEMENT – Harm reduction acknowledges that individuals are the best source for information about their own situations, and need to be empowered to join the service providers to determine the best means to reduce harms. Harm reduction recognizes the competency of individuals to make their own choices. The active participation of individuals is at the heart of harm reduction.
Harm Reduction Procedure
- When/if staff observe a pattern of behaviour that could be harmful to a client, they will respectfully engage in addressing the behaviour with a client. This includes, but is not limited to: substance use, sexually transmissible infections, and mental health issues.
- They will maintain an open dialogue with the client.
- They will suggest options to the client and make referrals based on her decisions.
- Together they will develop a plan that is acceptable to the client and meets LCIH’s health and safety standards.
- Staff will continue to remain engaged with the client and repeat the above steps should they be required/requested.
- Staff will advocate on behalf of their client’s best interests, if requested to do so by their client.
Community barriers will exist. Common barriers affecting harm reduction initiatives within communities include:
- Stigmas, myths and misconceptions
- Drugs and behaviors
- Lack of support
- Lack of trust
- Lack of funds
In addition to the barriers experienced by women experiencing violence, there are additional barriers encountered by aboriginal and racialized communities; youth; members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) communities; newcomers to Canada; people living in poverty; people with disabilities as well as other marginalized groups.
In order to promote community involvement in harm reduction initiatives, LCIH staff can:
- Build rapport and trust within the community.
- Establish relationships within the community.
- Raise awareness about prevention, care and social services for marginalized groups including but not limited to those with HIV/AIDS, STI’s drug users, sex workers and people who are street involved.
- Educate the community about resources and current services within the community.
- Support communities and build self-esteem among targeted populations.
- Respect the community and the people within it.