A Toronto designer is being inundated with requests for his red button pins, which are designed to help harm reduction workers — or anyone who carries a naloxone kit — identify themselves to drug users and the community at large.
Naloxone, which can be administered as an injection or nasal spray, temporarily blocks the effects of opioids on the body. It can help save the lives of people who overdose on opioid drugs such as heroin, fentanyl and morphine.
The kits are distributed by the Ontario Ministry of Health to people including current and past opioid users, their friends and family, and recently-released inmates.
Toronto designer Chris Aslanidis told Global News that his buttons, emblazoned with the message “I CARRY AN OVERDOSE PREVENTION KIT,” were originally made as part of a deal on the online bartering platform Bunz.
But the deal fell through, so Aslanidis, who owns the clothing and accessory brand The Button Machine, informed the Bunz community that the four buttons he made could be picked up for free.
That was on Wednesday. By Thursday, he had an order for 1,000 buttons from organizers of a harm reduction conference. He also received several smaller orders, which he plans to fulfill free of charge.
“I think it’s a very, very important cause, given how serious the situation has become,” Aslanidis said. “I think harm reduction workers have a great and very difficult job. The Toronto Overdose Prevention pop-up site at Moss Park is one great example.”
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Aslanidis says he’s “more than happy” to assist people and organizations who have use for the buttons.
“I’m just a guy making buttons, but to see these people appreciate the button and show so much interest in it, to have a use for it, that sure feels good.”
The button pins will eventually be available on The Button Machine’s website, with proceeds going to local charities.
With Ontario and Canada grappling with an opioid crisis, naloxone kits have emerged as effective and life-saving tools. The kits are commonly carried by harm reduction workers, but are increasingly being stocked by nightlife venues, schools, front-line police officers and music festival organizers.
At least 2,816 Canadians died from opioid-related causes in 2016 and the country’s chief public health officer predicts that number will surpass 3,000 this year.
— With a file from the Canadian Press
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