Safeworks saves lives, seminar audience told

Save a life: Monica Dickson hosted a seminar entitled Harm Reduction Saved my Life at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre on Jan. 15. The seminar included how to support substance users and training on using naloxone kits. Photo by Micah Alexander/The Press

Monica Dickson, a registered nurse and Safeworks employee hosted an overdose prevention and response training seminar at Sheldon Chumir Health Centre Jan. 15 for Calgarians to attend.

Since 2016, more than 10,000 deaths from opioids have occurred in Canada.

It is a “public health crisis” Dickson told the seminar, at the Sheldon Chumir Health Centre in the Beltline.

In 2018, there were 673 deaths from fentanyl.

Fentanyl use in Alberta has created an estimated decrease in life expectancy, the first such decline in four decades.

One in 10 Canadians struggle with problematic substance use and 83 per cent have experienced barriers to recovery.

Dickson started the seminar by giving information on why people use opioids, examples of what exactly harm reduction is and how people can use it in their daily lives.

“Something we need to remember is that someone is using a substance because its positive in the moment, and it’s hard not to use if the positive outweighs the negative at that point of time.”

Some examples of harm reduction that Dickson gave are asking the user what is going on in their lives, providing support, making sure their basic needs are being met, acceptance and caring about them no matter what.

“So, why do we need harm reduction or a harm reduction facility?” asked Dickson.

Such a facilty would mean fewer deaths, prevention of disease, and clients using in a safe environment where they can build relationships with care workers and others, potentially opening the way to recovery from their addiction.

Safeworks has many different services offered around the city.

Safeworks Outreach and Connect has a van that in on the street from 8 until 10 p.m. every night.

They clean up needles, carry naloxone kits and supplies to help whoever is around.

The main Safeworks facility downtown is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It has supervised consumption stations, social workers, nurses, paramedics, a dietitian and and other services on site.

The federal government has released a form explaining how to speak to substance users, including what to and what not to call them.

“Language impacts stigma. Don’t call someone an addict, or a junkie. They are people,” said Dickson.

She then went through the “four C’s” of substance use disorder: Craving, loss of control, compulsion and use in spite of consequences.

“At this point substance use is not a choice.”

Dickson also went through a fact or fiction game for everyone to participate in.

The audience heard that three to four grains of fentanyl can be enough to kill someone, fentanyl is often mixed in many street drugs and it is also 100 times more potent than morphine.

The guests then learned how to properly use a naloxone kit.

Dickson went through the steps, including calling 911, rescue breathing for two minutes (breathing every five seconds), using the syringe with the naloxone and where to inject it.

Dickson said to repeat these steps as a cycle, because someone in distress may need more than one dose. Also, if one does not have a naloxone kit, responders can still do the rescue breathing and call 911.

If you do not have a kit you can still save someone’s life. – Monica Dickson

Zachary Wist and Olivia Chikara, who attended the seminar, shared their reasons for going.

“I have been in situations where people were doing unsafe things,” said Chikara.

“Knowing more about addiction and how to take care of a person going through it will be extremely beneficial to me.” she said.

“I want to be prepared to help anyone I can at any time. Like Monica said, these are people we should care about,” said Wist.