A wave of jubilation filled the air as the red ribbon was cut during the official opening of Direction 180’s new home.
“Since 2001 we’ve had the right people here and I think now we finally have the right facility to provide a service, a quality service,” Cindy MacIsaac said, the director of Direction 180.
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Like many community-based harm reduction agencies, Direction 180 has constantly been fighting for stable funding and adequate space since its doors first opened at the turn of the new millennium.
“It’s stigma, bottom line its stigma. We’re not a ‘sexy’ crew, people don’t want us really in the neighbourhood. There were suggestions that maybe we could purchase other properties and put a fence around us so people couldn’t see us, those kinds of comments,” MacIsaac said.
There was a time when the waiting list for methadone access was sitting at over 300 people, MacIsaac said.
Over the past year, increased investments by the provincial government to fund treatment and address the widespread arrival of deadly forms of illicit fentanyl, have helped bring that list done to zero.
Raymond Smith, was Direction 180’s first client.
He remembers a time when access to treatment was so out of reach, he fought through life on the streets with no supports to lean on.
“I used to sleep over here behind the welfare office. That’s where I used to sleep, sometimes in the winter time. Outside, wintertime, summertime, for a long time,” Smith said.
Smith helped cut the ribbon at the new clinic and praises the support the harm reduction community has given him.
“It’s saved my life, it has saved my life and that means everything to me,” Smith said.
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The new home of Direction 180 lies in Scotia Pharmacy’s old location on Gottingen Street.
According to MacIsaac, the Nova Scotia Health Authority [NSHA] helped with the transition by providing lease-hold improvements.
“For us, it’s a win-win situation. The fact that this pharmacy became available, the fact that the Nova Scotia Health Authority found funds for us to do leasehold improvements and we’re still in our community,” MacIsaac said.
Since 2011, an average of 60 people have died in Nova Scotia every year due to opioid-related overdose deaths, according to the Nova Scotia Department of Health and Wellness.
MacIsaac likens it to the fact that recovery and treatment is an on-going health journey that requires continued layers of support and access.
“We’re doing some good work but more work needs to be done in some of the rural communities. We’re providing naloxone now, we’re giving people more information. However, there is a need for a pharmacy grade opiate and there is a need for a place for people to use safely.”
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