QuIHN is a Non-Government organisation (NGO) and part of the services delivered by QuIHN involves providing a needle and syringe program (NSP) in various regions across Queensland. We love doing this!
Even though we are not government, most of our funding is from government, so we still have to comply with the guidelines provided by QNSP (Queensland Needle and Syringe Programs) which sits in Queensland Health’s Communicable Diseases section. Their main job is to reduce the transmission of BBV’s (blood-borne viruses) and secondary infections by providing sterile injecting equipment and education to people who inject drugs. These people have a passion for working for the health and dignity of people who use drugs. Stigma and discrimination is unfortunately common in Australian culture and workers are humans who can make mistakes, but we do our best to make sure our NSPs are free of discrimination and attitudes of prejudice.
QuIHN also has policies in place for how we deliver services to people who enter our doors or engage us in any way. The policies should be there to keep everyone safe, protect the future of the service and make as big an impact as we can for as many people as possible. We also acknowledge that at times, those policies may make it harder to get the service that you desire from us. We love to see people get what they want and will listen to feedback to see if there is a way of overcoming any barriers but sometimes, we are limited by those internal and external circumstances.
With this in mind, we want to devote a small part of Tracks in coming editions to explain what boundaries we are working inside of and why they exist (if we can find out). We want to hear from you to address any concerns that you have. I’m sure many people will benefit from your questions.
So where to start….
What we are here to do
As mentioned above, the job of the NSP is to provide sterile injecting equipment, information and referrals to people who inject drugs. Topics of information provision include vein care, Hepatitis C and B, HIV, equipment (including wheel filter use), hygiene, overdose and naloxone use and drug info. QuIHN is bigger than that though and funded by different bodies.
Niki Parry runs an advocacy service for people around opiate substitution programs called QPAMS. This could involve helping someone to find a doctor or clinic that prescribes the medications, advocating for choices and helping with problems in relation to continuing treatment.
Our therapeutic (or counselling) services provide one-on-one counselling as well as educational and support groups. It’s important to note that QuIHN truly works within a harm minimisation framework meaning that they aren’t there to get people to stop drug use (unless that is your goal) but to support people’s individual goals.
QuIHN has been able to provide a bulk-billing medical clinic in Bowen Hills as well as Hep C treatment clinics in various QuIHN offices and outreach places in Queensland. If you see a big need for Hep C treatment somewhere that doesn’t have other options, please talk to our team about it.
In Brisbane, QuIHN has been extremely lucky to have an acupuncturist called Raf donate his time on Mondays to provide treatment for no cost to our clients. Booking is essential.
Through the years, QuIHN has been able to support people through distributing various donations to people who use our services. We don’t receive any funding for this (apart from much appreciated small donations 😊) but we know that it can make a big difference for some people, so we offer whatever space we can spare and minimal staffing hours to support this. This has included donations of food (bread, frozen Hari meals, groceries), clothes, blankets and knitted items, bric-a-brac items, toiletries, even swags at times. Even when we have a source of donations, we can’t guarantee to have supplies. Because of the minimal storage space we have, staff try to give out the donations as quickly as possible.
With this said, in the NSP our priorities are sterile equipment, information about safer injecting topics and Hepatitis and HIV testing and treatment. If you want us to check on welfare supplies or see if we can make a coffee etc, it may have to wait until the staff member either has done the other jobs or has someone else to serve at the counter. Your patience is appreciated.
In the Bowen Hills office, we have just started trialling free wi-fi onsite of up to 100 MB.
Naloxone is being supplied through the NSP’s with just a short training session to make sure you know how to use it. This substance has helped to save many lives and we need more of it out there because unfortunately, we are still losing too many people to opiate overdose.
There is another big development to our service which should be happening by the time the mag goes to print, and it is called Point-of-Care testing which can take place through the NSP with results in an hour.
We do have barriers to what we can do in terms of being able to pay for services (staff and resources) but we would love to help you find what you need though wherever possible. So, don’t be afraid to ask if either we can help in some way or if we know another group or someone else who can.