Sydney harm-reduction centre takes its services out on the road

A harm-reduction centre in Sydney, N.S., is taking its services on the road.

With the help of the Nova Scotia Health Authority, the Ally Centre acquired a van to do outreach work in underserved communities in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality.

"We feel it's important that we break down that barrier of people having to come to us and we come to the people," said Christine Porter, the centre's executive director.

Porter said the van will offer similar services to what they offer in their centre on Bentinck Street, such as harm-reduction supplies, Naloxone training and connecting people to other supports like primary health care.

"We'll have peer support on board where people, [so that] whatever they're running into in their lives, they'll have someone to talk to about it," she said.

Halifax residents might recognize the vehicle, the former "Bailey Bus" that served as a mobile methadone clinic.

The inside has been given a makeover to make it a cozier space for people looking for a place to rest, grab a cup of coffee or use a tablet to check their email and social media.

Brittany Wentzell/CBC

The Ally Centre partners with community centres and food banks, but Porter said that's lacking in New Waterford, which is why they chose to launch the van there on Monday to kick off the new program.

The Ally Centre currently has outreach centres in Glace Bay and Sydney Mines. However, those are housed with other community services through temporary agreements that are ending in March.

When that happens, Porter said the hope is to rotate the van between Glace Bay, Sydney Mines and other areas in CBRM.

Porter is also advocating to get a nurse who could provide health-care services as part of the van's supports.

In a statement, the Nova Scotia Health Authority said the primary health care department is supporting the addition of a full-time social worker at the Ally Centre. That person will start in the new year.