St. John Ambulance Saskatchewan offering training program to combat overdose crisis

The naloxone kits being distributed as part of the program will consist of two Narcan nasal sprays, gloves and a face shield to provide a barrier if CPR becomes necessary. File / Global News

A new training program has been launched by St. John Ambulance Canada following a year when overdose numbers reached new highs in different parts of the country.

The organization has announced what they call their opioid poisoning response training program. The program will offer opioid overdose training and naloxone kits to people who complete the course.

Michael Brenholen, director of operations for St. John Ambulance in Saskatchewan, said the free training is done primarily online with a video component explaining the different steps to help someone who is experiencing an overdose.

“(The course) is something that’s easy, something that anyone can do,” Brenholen explained. “With a little training and given the confidence to do what they need to do, they can then go forth and help someone who is having a difficulty.”

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Once a person completes the training modules, they will receive a nasal naloxone kit that will be sent to them in the mail. The kit will include two Narcan nasal sprays, gloves and a face shield to provide a barrier if CPR becomes necessary.

When asked who should consider taking the course, Brenholen said he encourages everyone to do so.

“Opioid overdoses can occur anywhere. It’s not just something that you will see in certain parts of a town. You’ll see it anywhere in the province. Rural, urban, it doesn’t matter,” Brenholen told Global News.

Click to play video: 'Rising drug problem in smaller Saskatchewan communities'
Rising drug problem in smaller Saskatchewan communities

In their announcement, St. John Ambulance said they are offering the program to help more Canadians during “a public health crisis.”

It was a record year for overdoses last year in Saskatchewan where 464 people died from confirmed or suspected drug overdoses. The previous record was marked in 2020 with 327 overdose deaths followed by 179 deaths in 2019.

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First responders say the amount of overdoses does not appear to be decreasing.

Neil Sundeen, deputy fire chief for Regina Fire and Protective Services, discussed how the fire department continues to see climbing overdose numbers in 2022. When Global News spoke to him on Wednesday, he said his team had responded to six overdoses in the past 24 hours.

“In the last three to five years, we have gone from occasionally responding to overdose calls to anywhere from five to ten calls per day,” Sundeen shared.

The latest drug toxicity deaths report from the Saskatchewan Coroners Service shows there were 49 suspected opioid overdose deaths in the month of January in the province.

Sundeen said the fire department and other first responders are noticing drug overdoses are occurring more frequently in the community. He called it “disturbing.”

“We are now finding numerous times when we are responding and there will be more patients involved. We have had as many as six patients at one scene that have all overdosed and have required care,” he noted.

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Last year there were 121 confirmed drug toxicity deaths in Regina, down from 144 in 2020. In Saskatoon, the city reported 82 deaths in 2021, an increase from 73 in 2020.

St. John Ambulance said they have received more than $5 million in funding for the next year with a goal to distribute 30,000 free nasal naloxone kits to communities and organizations in need of them most.

Residents can register for the online or in-person 90-minute training program by visiting the St. John Ambulance “React and Reverse” website.

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