Satellite sites, community access points that provide resources and services at a local level, are a critical resource. Many people think of first responders as Emergency Medical Service (EMS) workers. However, first responders in the opiate crisis are largely other people who use drugs. Satellite sites are usually homes or places in communities, relying on natural networks, that provide people who use drugs with sterile syringes, harm reduction equipment and naloxone kits. COUNTERfit (an SRCHC program started in 1998 by the late drug-user advocate Raffi Balian) employed a number of strategies to deliver a range of harm reduction supplies to our community. One strategy involved asking volunteers from the service-user base to do secondary distribution from their homes. The model worked well and SRCHC was able to get funding to pay people with lived experience for their community leadership.
Satellite sites are informal services where people who use drugs can access safer-use supplies, naloxone, information and training. In some cases, they can access a safer space to use. Since community health centres employ the resident operators, they can link clients directly to other services, including drug checking, primary care, HIV and hepatitis C testing, treatment, counselling and more.
Last year, together with Parkdale Queen West Community Health Centre, we were pleased to release a guidebook about satellite sites called, “Harm Reduction Satellite Sites: A guide for operating harm reduction hubs from the homes of people who use drugs.”