An Alberta grocery store chain with locations in Calgary and Edmonton has joined a collective of businesses dedicated to supporting harm reduction and is now training employees to help overdose victims.
Samana McEwen is the produce manager at Blush Lane Organic Market in Marda Loop and is one of those getting a lesson on how to use a naloxone kit, learning on an orange.
“It’s a crisis. It’s happening everywhere. It’s prominent in Calgary and we need to act compassionately towards people who are suffering,” McEwen said.
It would not surprise me if I came face-to-face with that because we see the impacts of the opioid crisis every day. If you are taking public transit right now you are seeing the impacts of the opioid crisis.”
Blush Lane has joined nearly 200 other businesses as a member of Each + Every : Businesses for Harm Reduction. The collective launched a year ago in Calgary and has spread across the country with the goals of supporting harm reduction services and working to destigmatize drug addiction.
“We have already had four business members respond to overdoses successfully on site, in their back alleys and parking lots,” said Euan Thomson, the executive director of Each + Every and owner of Raft Brew Labs in Calgary. “We heard from EMS afterwards that those people would not have survived that situation if the businesses had not responded,”
Ophelia Cara is both a drug user and harm reduction educator.
The Calgary woman started using the drugs to deal with depression and knows what it’s like to overdose.
Cara said she’s alive today because people around her knew how to use a naloxone kit.
Cara said she’s pleased to see another businesses joining Each + Every, and ensuring staff are trained to use the kits.
“If someone overdoses in the vicinity they can arrive there a lot faster than an ambulance can. With an overdose time is everything,” Cara said.
Thomson said more businesses are on getting on board with harm reduction efforts rather than fighting them.
“They certainly don’t want to be associated with not taking action on this crisis. They want to be associated with something more positive, which is directly taking responsibility,” Thomson said.
“Everybody should carry a naloxone kit. It’s like a first aid kit. If you’re in a situation where you don’t have one and somebody is experiencing an opioid poisoning, chances are they’re not going to make it.”
McEwen said she’s thankful for the naloxone kit training she got at work through agencies like Each + Every and Alberta Alliance Who Educate and Advocate Responsibly (AAWEAR).
“I feel like it lightens the load of the crisis that an individual like me can make a difference,” McEwen said.
Naloxone kits are free and can be found at over 2,000 community sites and pharmacies in Alberta.
March 6 is Black Balloon Day, an annual event dedicated to recognizing and celebrating those who have lost their lives to substance overdoses.