Grey Bruce Health Services is training staff to educate and distribute emergency Naloxone kits to people who use opioids and who may be at risk of experiencing an overdose.

Naloxone is a safe-to-use medication that can temporarily reverse the effects of opioids, including fentanyl, heroin, codeine, hydrocodone, morphine, hydromorphone, oxycodone and methadone.

Each kit contains instructions on how and when to administer the drug, two vials of naloxone, syringes, alcohol swab, latex gloves and a one-way rescue breathing mask. The kit is free-of-charge to qualifying recipients and replacement kits can be provided if required.

“If an overdose is suspected, it is very important to call 9-1-1 immediately, while also administering Naloxone,” says Dr. Sunil Mehta, GBHS, Emergency Department Physician. “The kit will not cure the overdose, but it can save a life by buying time for medical emergency responders to arrive and transport the patient to hospital for further treatment.”

According to the Office of the Chief Coroner, more than 700 Ontario residents died from opioid toxicity in 2015, ranking opioid overdoses as the third leading cause of acute death in the province. In response to the significant increase of opioid-related deaths across the province and country, Health Canada has approved the dispensing of free Naloxone kits to those in need through community pharmacies, no prescription required.

From 2015-16, 26 overdoses were treated by GBHS, compared to 24 that have been treated in the first 9 months of 2016-17.

“Our goal is to have staff trained and Naloxone kits available, at all six GBHS hospital locations, including our Mental Health and Addictions Services Department, by April 2017,” says Lance Thurston, GBHS, President and CEO. “The more proactive we can be in equipping individuals with the education and medication they need for a ‘what if’ situation, the more lives we can potentially save.”

Overdose education and Naloxone kits are currently available at the Wiarton and Owen Sound EDs, as well as the Owen Sound Rapid Access Addiction Medicine (RAAM) Clinic, Withdrawal Management Centre, and the Grey Bruce Health Unit, where a health card is not required.

GBHS staff will refer Naloxone kit recipients to a short video to assist in the education of how and when to administer the medication in an emergency. This video can be accessed here.

GBHS’ RAAM clinic provides support for alcohol and opioid addictions, and helps patients to manage withdrawal symptoms and cravings. For more information on the RAAM clinic and Addiction Services, please click here.

Media contact: Nicole Schmidt, Communications Coordinator, Grey Bruce Health Services, 519-376-2121 ext. 2805, nischmidt@gbhs.on.ca