Opioid crisis to receive holy intervention, WECHU and faith-based leaders hand out free naloxone kits

Acting medical officer of health Dr. Shanker Nesathurai feels the current opioid crisis is dire.

“I would say it is an emergency, a public health emergency, a community emergency and we need immediate action to try and mitigate this challenge.”

During a conference call Monday morning Dr. Nesathurai said there were five opioid-related deaths during the week of June 5th-12.

“One thing we can do is to speak about it. To acknowledge it is a problem,” he said. “The second thing we can do is to give naloxone or to have naloxone kits at home.”

On that note, the health unit has launched an initiative to help alleviate the crisis. Faith-based leaders have agreed to speak to their congregations about the opioid issue plaguing the community.

“I think it’s a great thing and important that we’re all coming together collectively in trying to fight something that is so dangerous which does not discriminate between a child, a rich person, a poor person, healthy person or non-healthy person, said Rabbi Shalom Galperin.

The health unit emphasized the impact of substance use and overdose across all cultural and faith groups. By collaborating with faith-based organizations they aim to reach additional networks of individuals who may benefit from learning more about naloxone or who may be hesitant to obtain a naloxone kit for their household.

One thousand naloxone kits have been ordered through the Ministry of Health and the participating faith-based organizations have agreed to share them with members of their congregation following religious services.

“There will be an opportunity to get some education on naloxone kits and this will allow people to take these kits home,” said Dr. Nesathurai.

Each naloxone kit includes two doses of naloxone nasal spray, instructions, the ‘5 Steps to Respond to an Opioid Overdose’, a rescue breathing barrier for CPR, a client identifier card, and non-latex gloves.

In addition to the kits themselves, the WECHU is providing videos, resources, and education for faith leaders and those who attend their services this weekend.

According to the health unit, 60 per cent of the kits distributed in our area are donated through pharmacies free of charge.

“It is great to have them on hand for anybody as long as drug users are still having access to the amount they need,” said advocate Brandon Bailey.

He feels a larger net needs to be cast with naloxone kits made available in businesses, cars and first aid kits among other places.

“Somebody knows somebody who uses opioids. You might not think you do but somebody does,” Bailey said. “They might not be open about it because of stigma so having a kit on hand for everybody it could help out. It could always save a life.”

Bailey feels users need to have the naloxone kits in their hands first.

“We wouldn’t not arm our military so why are we not going to arm drug users in the war against drugs?” he said.

Naloxone kits are available at local pharmacies for free. According to the Ontario Naloxone Program for Pharmacies, eligible individuals may receive up to two kits at a time on an individual basis although some pharmacists say more can be acquired with proper notice.

In addition, several local organizations provide naloxone kits to clients on-site and at no cost. visit www.wecoss.ca for a list of pharmacies and locations. These locations provide naloxone training before giving out a kit.

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