Thursday, 07 June 2018 06:23

Positive response to expansion of Take Home Naloxone program

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There has been a noticeable increase in the number of free kits issued by the Swift Current office of Community Health Services since the expansion of Saskatchewan’s Take Home Naloxone program.


Amanda Maxner, a registered nurse with the Saskatchewan Health Authority Mental Health and Addiction office in Swift Current said the increase has been significant.
“We’ve actually seen an 80 per cent increase in the amount of kits we’ve been able to distribute now that we have the expansion, because we’re able to not only just give them to people at risk of overdose, but we’re also able to give them to people that may witness an overdose,” she explained.
The Ministry of Health announced the expansion of the program in mid-April as a means to save lives and to prevent unintentional deaths from opioid overdose.
“We were really excited,” she said about the expansion. “I think most of the former health regions were really pushing that we were struggling with only being able to give the kits to the clients at risk, because the fact of the matter is that it’s more than likely if they need the kit they won’t be using it on themselves because they will be the ones experiencing the overdose.”
The initial focus of the Take Home Naloxone program was to ensure that naloxone was available in most areas of the province. In the case of the former Cypress Health Region the program was originally launched on Nov. 28, 2017.
Until the recent expansion of the program only two take home naloxone kits were given out at the Swift Current office and about 28 people were educated about the strategy.
“I think it was less than we were hoping,” she said about the number of kits that were issued. “We were pretty excited that not only did we get to do 28 education sessions, but that we got to give out some kits. In those training sessions we were able to train staff at The Centre as well as staff at the Great Plains College. So that was exciting that they were willing to partner with us in the community to get that education on board for them and their staff.”
Another 10 free take home naloxone kits were issued in the four-week period after the expansion of the program and another eight people have also been trained.
“Not only did we give more kits to clients that were considered at risk, but eight of those kits were to family, friends and loves ones of people who would be considered at risk or people who may witness an overdose,” she said.
Education is an important component of the provincial Take Home Naloxone program and kits will only be issued after people have received training. The information provided during the training includes basic overdose prevention for stimulants and opioids, how to identify an overdose, and how to respond to an overdose, including how to administer naloxone.
“The more people are educated how to mitigate the risk, the better a community is off in regards to the overdose potential in the community itself,” she said. “So my hope is that the more people get educated, the more that risk will decrease as well as hopefully that will help in regards to stigma, because I don’t just do the education piece. I usually touch on some myths and facts in regards to addiction and use and treatment so that they’re not just getting the information on how to not overdose and how to prevent that. They’re also getting education on why or what’s causing an addiction or why this disease is so prevalent.”
A take home naloxone kit contains all the items required to administer naloxone to a person experiencing an overdose. The kit includes two glass vials of 0.4 mg/ml naloxone, two auto-retractable safety syringes, two alcohol swabs, two non-latex gloves, a one-way rescue breathing barrier mask, and instructions on how to respond to an opioid overdose.
The term opioid refers to a class of drugs, whether natural, semi-synthetic or synthetic, that activates the body's opioid receptors. It includes drugs such as morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, carfentanil, methadone, heroin, codeine, and oxycodone. During an overdose a person's body is unable to maintain vital life functions due to exposure to a toxic amount of a drug or a combination of drugs.
Naloxone is a safe medication that helps to reverse the side effects of opioids, but it is not a substitute for emergency care. The effects of naloxone will start to wear off after about 30 minutes and it is therefore important to still call 911.
The take-home naloxone kits and the training are available at Community Health Services in Swift Current. For more information or to book an appointment, contact the Saskatchewan Health Authority centralized intake number at 1-877-329-0005.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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