HIV-AIDS Regional Services (HARS) Kingston now has a new outreach tool in the form of a mobile harm reduction vehicle.
Staff are working to retrofit a used ambulance as a regional mobile unit, providing services to rural areas within the Kingston region.
“This week, what we’re doing is we are taking off all of the decals from this used ambulance and getting a clean slate so we can start putting our own branding on it,” said Amanda Rogers, team leader for harm reduction at HARS Kingston.
Soon, the 2010 ambulance, which was purchased from the Rainy River District Services Board, will be a new tool in HARS Kingston’s outreach program.
“We service a very large area — Prescott all the way west to Bancroft and then north to Sharbot Lake — and there is a huge need,” Rogers said.
WATCH: (May 15, 2019) Health Minister Petitpas Taylor announces new measures to tackle opioid crisis
The ambulance purchase and the staff needed to operate the programme are funded through a Government of Canada public health grant.
Important to the organization was to hire people with “lived experience” to help deliver outreach programming.
Ryan Rolfe is a husband and a father of three young children, an outreach worker with HARS and part of the mobile team.
After struggling with drug and alcohol dependence, Rolfe has been clean for five years.
Rolfe will bring an understanding to the team that will help him connect and reach clients, because he has been where they are.
“While I was using I felt there was a huge gap in service, and didn’t feel like many people I was going to see to seek help from really understood what I was going though,” Rolfe said.
The same can be said for Derek Van Alstyne, who will be driving the new mobile unit throughout the Kingston region.
“I love it. I come with a lot of lived experience,” said Van Alstyne.
“These are my people. I love my job. I love what I do.”
The 2010 ambulance was towed to Kingston from Fort Frances, Ont, close to 1,940 km away.
WATCH: (April 29, 2019) Kingston area health unit wants long acting drug banned