Interior Health has begun implementing measures in emergency departments to improve overdose surveillance and arm those at risk with naloxone, a life-saving drug that can reduce the risk of brain damage or death, from future opioid overdoses.
Emergency departments in Castlegar, Kamloops, Kaslo, Kelowna, Nakusp, New Denver and Vernon are the first sites to provide both the enhanced overdose surveillance and the Take Home Naloxone program. Interior Health will roll both initiatives out to the 27 remaining emergency departments within the next two months.
“B.C. was the first province in Canada to establish a province-wide take-home naloxone program,” said Health Minister Terry Lake. “Since 2012 more than 8,500 kits have been distributed to people who use opioids, and more than 8,000 people trained to administer naloxone. It’s great to hear that now even more people will have access to kits and that Interior Health has enhanced their overdose surveillance.”
A new emergency department surveillance tool has been developed to improve overdose tracking. The tool will be completed whenever a patient who has overdosed or is suspected to have overdosed, presents for medical treatment at the emergency department.
“In the past, the data we had on overdoses had significant limitations. It was not available in real time and was difficult to turn into timely action,” said Dr. Silvina Mema, Medical Health Officer. “The introduction of this new surveillance measure allows us to identify where risks are arising and will enable us to take proactive action to warn and protect people who are at risk.”
In addition, all emergency departments will offer overdose patients the life-saving drug naloxone through the expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program. The Take Home Naloxone program is provided in collaboration with the BC Centre for Disease Control. The program provides training and naloxone kits free of charge to people who use opioids and are at risk of an overdose. Naloxone is an injectable drug that can reverse (stop) an opioid overdose – in the event of an overdose, naloxone restores breathing within 2-5 minutes, which offers the opportunity to save a life and reduce harm while waiting for help to arrive.
The emergency department at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops was the first in Canada to provide naloxone kits and has been doing so since March 2014. Kirstin McLaughlin, Emergency Department Nurse, is pleased to see the program expanding to other hospitals.
“Not only has the program allowed us to connect with some of our most marginalized populations, the kits we have dispensed have reversed overdoses and saved the lives of members of our community,” said McLaughlin, who is the administrator of the Take Home Naloxone program at Royal Inland Hospital. “Rising opioid overdose rates make expansion of the program to all Interior Health emergency departments an essential and logical next step in reducing harm to people who use drugs.”
The Take Home Naloxone program is also available in several community locations across Interior Health and will be expanding to more locations in the coming months. A list of community based Take Home Naloxone locations can be found on the Interior Health website.