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Caring For People Who Use Drugs

Providing safe and inclusive care for people who use drugs starts with non-judgmental engagement. This involves an understanding that most drug use is not problematic. Problematic drug is defined as use that has negative consequences for the individual, their friends, family, and/or society.

This webpage provides links to resources, strategies and tools intended to support health care providers and other staff to better meet the needs of people who use drugs.

The content will be updated as new resources become available. Check back periodically for the latest resources, and watch for more information in the weekly Health Care Connection emails.

Harm reduction

Harm reduction is a perspective that focuses on reducing the adverse health, social, and economic consequences of psychoactive drug use through polices, programs, and practices. Incorporating harm reduction principles into your work improves care for people who use drugs. The WRHA's position statement on harm reduction describes our commitment to harm reduction.

NEW  Harm Reduction eLearning module is now available in the Shared Health Learning Management System (LMS).The module was built in consultation with experts in harm reduction across Manitoba including the input of people who use drugs and their experiences with health care.

The module is available to all health service providers in Manitoba with access to the LMS system (Regional Health Authorities, Shared Health, and RHA Funded Agencies). The module is recommended for staff in settings where people who use drugs receive health services. To access the course:

  • Go to the LMS log in page. https://sharedhealthmb.learnflex.net
  • Log into the LMS (or create an account)
  • Use the search feature (top right) to find "Harm Reduction"
  • Click "Register".

Trauma informed care

Trauma informed care is a healing-centred and compassionate way of relating to people through interactions and environments that provide choice, control, and safety. Trauma can create conditions for problematic drug use, and trauma can be exacerbated by our actions in health care. Trauma informed care comes from understanding the prevalence of trauma, how trauma affects people, and putting that knowledge into action in practices, programs, and organizational priorities.

Managing difficult situations

People who use drugs may experience harm or discomfort that manifests in challenging healthcare situations. Building our capacity to prevent and manage challenging situations improves the safety and quality of our care.

  • The WRHA is part of the provincial Violence Prevention Program, which supports staff to tailor a plan of care to the needs of the person. Several learning modules are available on the Learning Management System (log in and search for "violence").
  • When a difficult situation has occurred, Critical Incident Stress Management (CISM) might be needed for staff. The WRHA's Occupational and Environmental Safety and Health (OESH) page lists resources on CISM. Contact OESH for more information on resources available after a Critical Incident.

Language and communication

Language matters. Safe and inclusive care for people who use drugs involves the use of non-stigmatizing language that conveys care, respect, and dignity.

Moral distress

Caring for people who use drugs can be ethically challenging for health and social service providers. Moral distress occurs in situations where you feel you know the right thing to do but are somehow prevented from doing it. Trauma and the challenges of problematic use of substances can make it difficult for providers to feel like they are able to provide good care.

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