Amid growing concern about a recent spike in fatal overdose incidents in Toronto, city officials and festival organizers are ensuring safety measures are being put in place for the attendees at the popular Veld Music Festival.
INK Entertainment, the business that runs the annual Veld festival, said it will allow patrons to bring naloxone, a drug used to reverse the effects of an overdose, to this weekend’s event at Downsview Park.
Susan Shepherd, a spokesperson for Toronto Public Health (TPH), told Global News Friday the decision was made after the company sought the advice of health officials.
“TPH believes anyone who needs access to naloxone should be allowed to carry and administer it,” she said in a statement.
“Naloxone must be administered quickly during an overdose, and at a large scale event it may take some time for medical staff to arrive where the overdose is occurring.”
INK said the drug can be brought in either injectable or nasal spray form and attendees must “notify medics on-site, where they will need to be cleared before entry.”
News of the new measures came just before Toronto police issued public safety alerts late last week in the wake of a recent spike of overdose deaths, with as many as six drug-related fatalities being recorded in the city since July 27.
Toronto councillor Joe Mihevc told Global News paramedics will be out in “full force” at Veld and equipped to deal with overdoses of “one form or another.”
But he said if there is one message that needs to get out more, it’s that people should not be ingesting or taking drugs intravenously alone.
“One of the stats out there is that 80 per cent of drug users do so alone and I think the public health message is this is not something you should be doing alone any longer,” Mihevc said.
“In a perfect world, a lot of the drug use wouldn’t happen. But given that it is happening … people can make sure they have a buddy system – that’s really important in terms of harm prevention.”
Drew Walton, an addiction counsellor, told Global News Friday the decision to allow naloxone is the right one, highlighting that any kind of preventative measures that can be taken to save lives is “strongly encouraged.”
“People use drugs, some people abuse them, other people use them recreationally, and lot of the time we have these young adults going to these events and we want public awareness to be a its highest so people know what’s going on, and the dangers associated with use,” Walton said.
In addition to the naloxone kits, Veld said it’s also providing the following safety measures:
- Designated space staffed by female security staff for women who may feel unsafe
- Strong medical presence
- Increased water stations
Attendees can visit the safer summer festivals page for more safety tips.