A program that will distribute take-home naloxone kits to patients in need will soon be available in Regina.
Naloxone is a medicine that when injected, can quickly reverse the effects of a fentanyl or other opioid overdose. It is currently used by paramedics and emergency departments in Regina.
Fentanyl, which led to the deaths of 69 people in Alberta in the first three months of 2016, is a synthetic opioid or painkiller that is similar to heroin.
However, experts say it’s 50 to 100 times more toxic than other narcotics.
According to data from the Office of the Chief Coroner (OCC) Coroner’s Production Database, in Saskatchewan, there have been 10 fentanyl deaths every year since 2013 and five as of Aug. 31.
Toxicology reports take up to six months or more to get back and some deaths are accounted for more than once. They are entered under the appropriate column if a combination of opioid drugs were found in the person’s system.
This year, the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health is providing $50,000 for take-home naloxone programs in Regina and Saskatoon based on recommendations from the Mental Health and Addictions Action Plan.
Released in 2014, the plan offered 16 broad recommendations for improving services across the province.
Starting on July 4, people who have been deemed at risk by the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region (RQHR) for an opioid overdose will be able to receive take-home naloxone kits through the Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region’s Harm Reduction Methadone Program.
The clients, partners and family members will be taught how to recognize the signs of an overdose, how to perform rescue breathing and how to safely administer naloxone.
Once the patients finish training and receive a certificate, the request for naloxone will be filled at the Lakeshore Pharmacy. It will be given to a client along with a kit at the Harm Reduction Clinic.
“Part of recovery is the environment you live in,” Ken Akan, program manager at RQHR mental health and addictions, said.
“So who best to have these kits on hand is people who have used, are in recovery and they may be hanging around with other folks that are using. They may not necessarily use it on themselves, they may use it on someone else or someone may be around.”
Akan said a lot of the clients at the Harm Reduction Clinic are living below the poverty line, don’t have financial resources and may be dealing with other socio-economic problems.
“We can label folks addicts, we can label as not a part of society but everyone’s a human being and deserves a right to a fair chance at life,” Akan said.
“I think that’s what our kits are hoping to provide, the ability to save lives.”
With files from Blake Lough