Needle Exchange and Harm Reduction in Hostel Settings
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Needle Exchange and Harm Reduction in Hostel Settings. Drugs and Homelessnes National Research. 76% (Carlen, 1996) (Controlled drugs and solvents) 85% (Downing & Orr 1996) 88% (Flemen 1997) (includes alcohol where problematic) 89% (Hammersley and Pearl 1997)

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Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Drugs and Homelessnes

National Research

76% (Carlen, 1996)

(Controlled drugs and solvents)

85% (Downing & Orr 1996)

88% (Flemen 1997)

(includes alcohol where problematic)

89% (Hammersley and Pearl 1997)

(includes alcohol where problematic)

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Crisis Research

Key findings

The research found a clear link between homelessness and substance use:

• 83% of the sample had used a substance other than alcohol in the last month.

Substance use is often a cause of homelessness:

• Two thirds of the sample cited drug or alcohol use as a reason for first becoming homeless.

Homelessness was shown to exacerbate substance use:

• Four out of five in the sample said that they had started using at least one new drug since becoming homeless.

Substance use often prolongs and deepens the problems of homelessness:

• People dependent upon drugs or alcohol are almost twice as likely to be excluded from homelessness services as non-dependents.

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Why is it so critical?

  • Drug use escalates whilst homeless

  • Mental health liable to worsen

  • Poor diet and self care

  • Limited opportunities for hygiene

  • Reduced access to wound-care

  • Reduced access to drug treatment

  • Increased risk of accidental or intentional OD

  • Disengagement from support structures

  • Increase in drug related risk-taking behaviour

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

The Barriers

  • Agencies still misinformed about Section 8 of the MDA

  • Government unwilling to provide a clear steer on drug use on site

  • Fear and misunderstanding relating to work with drug use

  • Lack of communication between drugs services and voluntary sector housing providers

  • Resource limitations for hostels

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

The Challenge

  • To implement an integrated set of responses that addresses:

  • Basic needs: food, water, shelter

  • Triage: for life threatening conditions

  • Wound-care: to improve health & prevent deterioration

  • Harm reduction: to prevent further damage

  • Holistic input: to improve wellbeing and promote change

  • Signposting: to direct towards appropriate drug treatment

  • Joint-working: to create integrated services that meet all needs

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

The Model

A straightforward, understandable model of provision on three tiers:

Bronze:The minimum acceptable standard to which housing agency should be able to achieve. It should not be inordinantly expensive to reach this standard. Funders should ensure that all purchased services attain this standard.

Silver:Exceeds the minimum, providing an increased level of service and should be achievable within 12 months.

Gold:Aspirational and liable to require a more extensive programme of training and development. Would provide an exemplary model of provision.

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Basic Needs

  • Bronze:

  • Accessible drop in that will take ongoing substance users who may be intoxicated.

  • Provides basic opportunities to eat and wash.

  • Housing provision that does not arbitrarily exclude active users

  • Policies & staff training in place to ensure a safe, legal but inclusive service.

  • Silver:

  • Proactive policy within housing & drop in to engage with substance users.

  • Services offer food that helps improve health & reflects needs of people who use drugs.

  • Housing services have flexible drugs policies that retain rather than excluding where possible.

  • Gold:

  • Substance users receive full assessment of basic needs. Those who are homeless are able to rapidly access appropriate housing with support.

  • Attention paid to encouraging people to eat, take on fluids, and assisted with these basic needs where required.

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings


  • Bronze:

  • Staff are familiar with key physical and mental health risks related to substance use;

  • Staff will refer to external agencies when need is identified

  • Staff have record keeping systems in place to follow up

  • Silver:

  • Trained staff are able to identify key indicators of risk;

  • External agencies offer help on a satellite basis

  • Agency has joint working in place with these external agencies for information sharing

  • Gold:

  • Trained staff within agency offer a triage assessment

  • Trained staff in house deal with some issues

  • External agencies working in close partnership deal with other issues

  • There is full case management with effective review

  • Joint training and review takes place between all agencies

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Wound care

  • Bronze:

  • Trained staff can identify key injuries and wounds

  • Referral to external treatment providers

  • Silver:

  • As above, plus

  • External agencies operate on a peripatetic basis, such as a satellite doctor, nurse and other health-care providers

  • Effective use of follow up on treatment

  • Gold:

  • As above plus:

  • Joint working protocols between agency and hospital to improve retention in services

  • Hospitals and agencies have agreed plans on discharge from hospitals

  • Full access to key agencies (MH, wound-care, GP, BBVs etc) via peripatetic services

  • All peripatetic services fully integrated with effective information sharing and care planning

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Harm Reduction

  • Bronze:

  • Staff maintain up-to-date lists of local needle exchanges and drug services

  • Information is clearly displayed and staff know where and when to refer to such agencies

  • Staff are able to provide basic harm reduction interventions such as reducing risk of overdose, not sharing and risks of mixing drugs

  • Silver: as above, plus:

  • Local agencies (e.g. Needle Exchange) undertake services on a satellite basis, and encourage take up of services

  • Staff have training to identify risky behaviour and support harm reduction work by other agencies

  • Policy and practice does not preclude effective use of needle exchange

  • Gold: as above plus:

  • Trained staff can undertake harm reduction interventions including needle exchange

  • Nx can take place in-house if required

  • Staff are comfortable engaging with a wide range of risk behaviours and can implement a range of harm reduction strategies

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Holistic Input

  • Bronze:

  • Staff are able to refer to a range of services that address wider need, including alternative therapies, employment training, social activities, life-skills and basic needs training

  • Silver: as above, plus:

  • A range of services are provided on a satellite basis, such as visiting input from employment advisors, acupuncture and shiatsu practitioners

  • The service offers accessible social activities for drug users

  • Assessment and referral regarding life-skills and basic needs takes place

  • Gold: as above plus:

  • All service users receive an assessment relating to their holistic needs

  • An action plan is drawn up that addresses these needs

  • Training and education is available either in-house or on an external, joint-working basis

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Access to Drug Treatment

  • Bronze:

  • Staff are aware of local treatment agencies, and can signpost service users to these agencies

  • Staff are aware of types of treatment available, and how to support these treatment interventions

  • Silver: as above, plus:

  • Local treatment providers undertake peripatetic sessions to meet and support users entering in to treatment

  • Staff have training to assist in promoting change through brief interventions

  • Staff refer to agencies and protocols are in place to follow up such referrals.

  • Gold: as above plus:

  • Services has a dedicated in-house substance worker/team

  • Workers can undertake assessment, referral, and key work clients

  • Local GP or drugs agency can provide prescribing interventions

  • Full joint working between agencies with effective case-management

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Effective joint-working

  • Bronze:

  • Information sharing protocols on a “need to know basis” are in place

  • Regular meetings take place between agencies

  • Agencies feedback to DAT and other appropriate structures

  • Silver:

  • effective information sharing protocols in place; client gives informed consent so information sharing can take place appropriately and effectively

  • Regular meetings and joint training take place

  • Liaison is effective across the hierarchy of all organisations.

  • Gold:

  • Colleagues from other organisations contribute throughout the service including meetings, reviews and training

  • Effective information sharing protocols are in place and reviewed regularly

  • All stakeholders, including statutory and voluntary agencies are integrated into the structure.

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

The Role of Drugs Agencies

  • Support and promote change in hostels through:

  • provision of high quality training

  • offer opportunities for placement and encourage satellite working

  • develop joint working protocols

  • challenge bad policies and practice

  • meet and share ideas and problems

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

The Outcome

  • M25 Project Doncaster: harm reduction and woundcare

  • Housing provider – sees a lot of drug users

  • Previously, wounded clients had to attend drug agency for Needle Exchange and wound care

  • Now, Nx takes place on a shared basis between M25 and drugs project on an in-house basis

  • Wound-care nurse follows up “missing” clients at M25 to ensure continuity of treatment.

  • Staff are receiving training around injecting and harm reduction

  • Effective information sharing and policies are in place

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

The outcome

  • Stoke-on-Trent: joint working

  • Housing provider and young people’s drug service fully integrated

  • Young people’s drugs workers seconded to housing provider

  • Housing provider also provides Nx and tier 2 drugs interventions

  • Effective information sharing and joint working

  • All young drug users able to easily access drug services

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings

Key Reading

Youth homelessness and substance use: Wincup, Buckland and Bayliss

Home Office: 2003

Drug Services for Homeless People - a good practice handbook: Randall; Drugscope/Homeless Directorate:

Home and dry? Homelessness and substance use in London Jane Fountain and Samantha Howes. Crisis 2002

Tackling Drug use in Rented Housing: DTLR:Robinson & Flemen: 2002

Room for Drugs: Flemen, K: Release: 1999

Smoke and Whispers: Flemen, K: Turning Point: 1995

Needle exchange and harm reduction in hostel settings