Overdose program expands its availability across Interior Health region

Interior Health's Take Home Naloxone program will be expanding to 70 new sites across the province.

As part of Interior Health’s overdose emergency response, the Take Home Naloxone program that has been in effect since 2012 will be expanding to 70 sites across the province.

The new sites will include all Interior Health emergency departments, public health centres, mental health and substance abuse offices in addition to several other community agencies.

“Drug-related overdoses and deaths are a huge concern,” Health Minister Terry Lake said in a press release. “Interior Health’s expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program could potentially save the life of someone’s friend, parent or child. It is part of B.C.’s comprehensive approach to address this crisis and do everything we can to prevent future tragedies.

The Take Home Naloxone program is specifically targeted at those at risk of an opioid overdose and is provided in collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control. Some of the most common opioids include drugs like oxycodone, morphine, codeine, heroin, fentanyl and others.

Earlier this year, Health Canada revised the Federal Prescription Drug List to make a non-prescription version of naloxone more accessible to Canadians to improve the province’s efforts to address the growing number of opioid overdoses. Naloxone can reverse an opioid overdose by restoring breathing within two to five minutes and improves the chances of survival while waiting for medical help to show up. Naloxone is considered a safe medication that is non-addictive, does not produce a high and has no effect on the body in the absence of opioids.

In emergency departments, the program is offered to patients who are being treated for an opioid overdose. At public health centres, mental health and substance use offices and community agencies, the program is available to those who are at risk of an opioid overdose.

Naloxone kits can be found in Invermere at Invermere Health Unit adjacent to the Invermere & District Hospital, and in in Fernie, Golden and Creston at their local health centres. There have been approximately 1,670 kits distributed across Interior Health since the program began with 180 kits having been used to reverse an overdose. According to communications officer for Interior Health Lesley Coates, seven been have administered in the East Kootenay up to July 2015.

In addition to making naloxone kits more accessible, the program is also providing training on how to prevent, recognize and respond to an overdose situation.

“The program not only gives those at risk free naloxone kits, it also provides an opportunity to offer information on how to prevent an overdose from occurring in the first place by educating clients about factors that can increase the risk of overdose,” Dr. Silvina Mema, Medical Health Officer, said in a press release. “For example, one of the things we tell people is that if they haven’t used a drug for a while their tolerance or response to that drug can change and that puts them at a greater risk of an overdose.”

For those looking to learn more about the program, you can find information on the Interior Health website at www.interiorhealth.ca.