When CAMH introduced its Opioid Overdose Prevention Initiative in August of 2017, one of the overarching goals was for Naloxone kits to be considered as stigma-free to possess as an EpiPen. The hope was the life-saving overdose antidote would become a standard part of every opioid user’s first aid kit, including those taking opioids by prescription as directed by their doctor. Sixteen months later, CAMH Pharmacist Tianna Costa has seen that message spread far and wide throughout CAMH and beyond.
“I had a client today who told me she was invited to a party and the hosts wrote on their Facebook page ‘No judgment, but if you intend to use drugs, we want to let everyone know we have Naloxone kits on hand,’” said Costa during an interview at the Queen Street Outpatient Pharmacy. “I thought that was a really great way to show there is less stigma attached to it than there used to be, as well as letting people know that if you are going to use, we want you to use safely.”
In the midst of an opioid crisis that cost the lives of almost 4,000 Canadians last year, CAMH committed to an education and outreach initiative dedicated to saving lives. Costa conducts regular training sessions with patients regarding Naloxone and how to use it, and encourages them to distribute the free kits to family and friends as well.
“Every time I do a training session I say, ‘If you are the one who is using, you are not going to be able to use Naloxone on yourself, so I really encourage family members to have the kit or at least know how to use it,” said Costa.
Staff training is also a core part of the overdose prevention strategy. So far 126 staff at departments across CAMH – not just the addiction services – have taken specialized opioid overdose prevention training.
Access to Naloxone kits has also expanded since the initiative began and are now available through the Drug Treatment Court and the CAMH Emergency Department. Overall, over 1,700 kits have been distributed.
“We are pleased to see so many clinicians and clients utilizing the resources created to support overdose prevention efforts,” says Stephanie Carter, Clinical Director of the Ambulatory Services Acute Care Program. “It is clear everyone appreciates these tools as one important step in trying to prevent overdose.”