SAIT is one of the many institutions across Alberta that is offering free naloxone training, as well as access to the take-home naloxone kits. The training sessions are offered monthly through SAITSA, SAIT’s student organization.
Sarah Hogendorp, a peer support centre coordinator in charge of mental health initiatives on behalf of the student association, is involved with the training at SAIT.
Hogendorp said that last year, after an opioid response initiative had been rolled out by the Government of Alberta, SAIT offered two naloxone training courses. Now, they are offering them monthly through a partnership with the SAIT Wellness Clinic.
In March 2016, the Government of Canada declared that a prescription for naloxone was no longer needed, in an effort to combat the ongoing opioid crisis throughout Canada.
“It’s free, and we are just trying to make it easier for people to access this training that you can get from any pharmacy. We’re just constantly trying to give more opportunities to SAIT students to access what is available to them,” said Hogendorp.
The training session is 90 minutes long and is as comprehensive as possible for those participating.
“You will have a full understanding of who it is that the opioid crisis is affecting the most, and why you should carry naloxone. You will get the whole nine yards,” said Hogendorp.
Participants practice the procedure of actually injecting naloxone into a stress ball, so when participants have completed the training, they will feel confident in administering the drug.
Michael Kwas, a former SAIT student, took the naloxone training during his time as a volunteer firefighter. He just recently picked up a naloxone kit of his own at his local community pharmacy in Calgary.
“I lost a friend last year to fentanyl, so after that, I decided I should just get one and have it on me because you never know nowadays. You can find the stuff in anything,” Kwas says.
“It’s a good safety precaution because you just never know what you’re taking.”
Mariel Fogel is a registered nurse who works in one of Calgary’s emergency rooms and administers naloxone to patients regularly.
“It works very quickly. Usually, within five minutes you start to see effects, and within 15 minutes, you start to see full responsiveness from the individual who has had naloxone administered to them,” Fogel said.
Although medical health professionals like Fogel have seen success through the use of naloxone, Fogel stresses the importance of calling 911 after a drug overdose, even if the person who has overdosed has been administered naloxone.
Fogel says based on her experience, the naloxone program has been excellent primary prevention for those struggling with opioid addiction.
After a person has overdosed and been brought into the emergency room, Fogel said she goes over the naloxone training with them. She has had positive responses to this, both from the person who overdosed, and their partner, or whoever was with them when they passed out.
“They are usually both very engaged and want to prevent any further occurrence like this,” said Fogel.
“It’s very traumatizing to the person who is watching, let alone the person who is going through the overdose.”
Fogel, who often works the night shift in the emergency room, said she sees a lot of people who are coming in for the same reason again and again. But after an individual has been talked through the naloxone training, she generally does not see them again.
“Just knowing that people have this (naloxone), they are less likely to have to need it because they are already being more cautious. Generally, once people are given the tools, they are a lot more pro-active working for themselves.”
Generally, once people are given the tools, they are a lot more pro-active working for themselves. – Mariel Fogel
“There’s no denigration or shame given to those people who come in asking for it. We would just rather people get the kit then suffer the consequences of not having anything.
“It takes a lot of resources, and time to monitor these people once they’ve come in with an overdose. If they do happen to have someone with them who have had the naloxone training…it takes a lot of strain off of our system,” Fogel continued.
Kwas, who is not a medical health professional said the kit is quite self-explanatory and easy to use.
There are now almost 200 community-based naloxone programs in walk-in clinics in Alberta, with 30 programs in Calgary alone.