ABORIGINAL NEEDLE SERVICE IS A FIRST
Author: Di Thomas
Border Mail (Australia)
Tue, 23 May 2006
A needle exchange program at the Albury Wodonga Aboriginal Health Service, launched yesterday in partnership with Greater Southern Area Health Service, is the first of its kind in NSW.
The new program also marks the inaugural partnership between the two services.
Aboriginal health service chief Scott Walters said that the program would be available to those Aboriginal drug users who were not accessing mainstream needle exchange services that are offered at community health centres.
The service will provide clean syringes and advice to those wanting to get off illicit drugs.
"The program is all about prevention and making sure people do exchange their syringes in a culturally appropriate environment," Mr Walters said.
"If they come in to get clean needles we can reduce the occurrence of hepatitis C and associated diseases."
The Greater Southern director of population health, planning, performance and research, Maggie Jamieson, said the state-funded service was a first for the region and NSW, and she was now speaking with Aboriginal health providers to encourage its expansion.
Greater Southern chief executive Associate Prof Stuart Schneider said the program had been brought about by the service working with community leaders.
He said the service was looking to re-establish partnership agreements with all Aboriginal health services within the region to enhance programs.
Aboriginal health service vice chairman Craig Taylor said the service would celebrate its first birthday next month and the needle exchange program was an example of how it was breaking down barriers within the Aboriginal community.
Mr Taylor said the service had just received money from NSW Health to appoint a consultant to undertake a feasibility study based on the service's first year patient statistics and issues for further consideration.
He said in the next few years the service would aim to develop a multi-faceted medical and allied health service as well as a hostel for the Aboriginal aged.