Finnish harm reduction services were established in the late 1990s and are implemented by municipal bodies. The recent Government Resolution on the Action Plan to Reduce Drug Use and Related Harm 2016-19 puts an emphasis on further expansion of coverage and continuity of harm reduction interventions.
In Finland, harm reduction services are delivered through outreach work and local health counselling centres. In addition, some harm reduction activities are carried out at treatment units. Outreach work mainly involves street patrols, with the aim of mediating between drug users and the official care system. Peer work is used in several locations and focuses on reaching the most excluded and hardest to reach groups of drug users. The health counselling centres that provide sterile injecting equipment to prevent infectious diseases are located mainly in cities of over 100 000 inhabitants and are available at about 30 locations across Finland.
The key components of the Finnish harm reduction services are provision of injecting equipment; testing for infectious diseases and vaccination provision; referral to treatment services, in particular opioid substitution treatment (OST); case management; and provision of information on drug-related diseases and risks, such as overdoses.
According to available data, the number of clients using needle and syringe programmes at health counselling centres increased from 8 400 to 14 000 between 2001 and 2014, and the number of syringes given out also increased, from almost 1 million in 2001 to 5 million in 2015. Needles and syringes can also be purchased without medical prescription at most pharmacies in Finland, and pharmacies play a key role in needle and syringe provision in areas where there are no health counselling centres.
Availability of selected harm reduction responses
NBYear of data 2016.
Vaccination against hepatitis A virus and HBV for PWID is free as part of the general vaccination programme. The available data indicate that more than one third of PWID in contact with the drug treatment system have received full vaccination, and more than half have received at least one dose.
The number of syringes given out increased from 1 million in 2001 to 5 million in 2015