Friday, 01 December 2017 03:20

Cypress Health launches Naloxone program for those at risk of opioid overdose

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Amanda Maxner, the lead educator for Cypress Health Region's Take Home Naloxone strategy, shows a naloxone kit to board members during her presentation at a Cypress Regional Health Authority meeting, Nov. 22. Amanda Maxner, the lead educator for Cypress Health Region's Take Home Naloxone strategy, shows a naloxone kit to board members during her presentation at a Cypress Regional Health Authority meeting, Nov. 22. Matthew Liebenberg

The provincial Take Home Naloxone program to provide free kits to those at risk of an opioid overdose has been expanded to the Cypress Health Region.


The health region launched the program in partnership with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Health and the take home naloxone kits have been available in Swift Current since Nov. 28.
Cypress Health has been preparing for the launch of the Take Home Naloxone strategy over the past four months.
The Ministry of Health is providing $50,000 this year to fund Take Home Naloxone programs in the province. It is already available in the Heartland, Keewatin Yatthe, Five Hills, Prairie North, Prince Albert Parkland, Regina Qu'Appelle, Saskatoon, Sun Country, and Sunrise health regions.
Amanda Maxner, an intake nurse with Cypress Health's Mental Health and Addiction Services, is the lead educator for the Take Home Naloxone strategy in the health region. She believes the kits can make a real difference to save lives.
“It’s important because we have people who are using opioids and they’re at risk of an overdose,” she said. “So what this kit can do is reverse the effects of that overdose even for a short period of time for them to be able to receive the emergency services that they need.”
There have been incidents of opioid overdose in the health region and these drugs are available and used in the community.
“You wouldn’t think there would be a whole lot here, and a lot of people maybe want to not think that it’s here, but it is and the age range of people using these drugs is a lot more than people like to think it is,” she said. “We’ve got teens using, we’ve got pre-teens using, we’ve got everybody up until end of life using these medications, these street drugs, illicit drugs. So if we can keep them safe for whenever that point comes that they are ready in that action phase to make a change, that we’re here and available to them.”
Penni Carron, the director of mental health and addictions for Cypress Health, said the people who are calling their intake line are ready to receive support from the addictions team members, but there are still other opioid users in the community who have not yet reached a point where they are asking for help.
“They’re still using without any supports to that or any counselling or anything,” she said. “So if our numbers of the people that we’re actually seeing gives us any indication of how many are, typically that means that there’s more than that behind the scenes that aren’t ready. And those people are at higher risk, and those are the ones we’re hoping to reach out to with this.”
The aim of the Take Home Naloxone strategy is to save lives through education and the provision of kits to opioid users.
A person will only receive a take home naloxone kit after completing a training session.
“Individuals that do not use opioids, but know someone who does, like peers or family members, are also encouraged to receive this training on how to use the take home naloxone kit,” Maxner said.
“Why this would be important is because if a client has the kit, but is overdosed, they cannot administer it to themselves.”
During a training session she will provide information about basic overdose prevention for stimulants as well as opioids, how to identify an overdose, and how to respond to an overdose, including the administration of naloxone.
Caron noted there will also be more targeted training sessions during the implementation of this strategy, which will be aimed at those who might have more frequent contact with opioid users.
“Our team members in the addictions team, in the community mental health services, folks in each of the acute care centres, emergency department doctors,” she mentioned. “Those are the folks that we expect may be coming into contact with someone who might be at risk and we would then ask them to be making sure those people are aware of the program.”
A take home naloxone kit contains all the items required to administer naloxone to a person experiencing an overdose. The kit includes two glass vials of 0.4 mg/ml naloxone, two auto-retractable safety syringes, two alcohol swabs, two non latex gloves, a one-way rescue breathing barrier mask, and instructions on how to respond to an opioid overdose.
The term opioid refers to a class of drugs, whether natural, semi-synthetic or synthetic, that activates the body's opioid receptors. It includes drugs such as morphine, hydromorphone, fentanyl, carfentanil, methadone, heroin, codeine, and oxycodone. During an overdose a person's body is unable to maintain vital life functions due to exposure to a toxic amount of a drug or a combination of drugs.
According to Maxner the naloxone will not only bind to the same neuro receptors in the brain as opioids, but it has a stronger bond to these receptors.
“So if a client has opioids in their system and they administer naloxone, it pumps the opioids out of the system, thus reversing the effects of the opioids,” she explained. “This does only last for a short period of time though, about 30 to 90 minutes, but that is the amount of time where you can call 9-1-1. EMS can transport a client to the hospital and we save a life.”
She is hoping anyone who uses opioids will contact the health region in response to the launch of the Take Home Naloxone program.
“This kit is not stringent on them having to receive services from us,” she said. “This is not us telling them you have to stop using. This is an option to keep you safe. The fact is that most people who use drugs don’t want to die. So if this is an option to keep them safe, I’m assuming they’re going to be interested in it.”
The naloxone kits and the training are provided in Swift Current. For more information or to book an appointment, contact the Cypress Health Region's Mental Health and Addictions centralized intake team at 1-877-329-0005.

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Matthew Liebenberg

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