High demand for naloxone training at Centretown session

Ottawa community health groups say registration for a naloxone training event booked up so fast they've added two additional sessions.

Jan. 23 training session booked up so fast, 2 additional sessions planned

Roberto Ortiz, executive director of Max Ottawa, says the gay men's health organization was overwhelmed with interest in its naloxone training session. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

It took three rooms to accommodate nearly 60 people who attended a free naloxone training session in Centretown organized by a community health organization for gay men.

Max Ottawa, which focuses on holistic health programs for men who have sex with men, had been anticipating a small session of about 20 people, but said the response was overwhelming.

"There's a concern we have that [opioid overdoses] can happen to anyone in our network: our friends, ourselves, our sex partners," said executive director Roberto Ortiz.

"This is the responsibility of all of us to take care of each other. So we're super happy to know that there are so many people that want to be ready in case something happens."

Participation was not limited to gay men and included a broad range of people. Each took home a naloxone kit at the end of the training session, where they were shown how to use the syringe and nasal spray.

A trainer shows the contents of a naloxone kit. It includes two syringes, two ampules of the opioid antidote and instructions. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Friends of friends

Bryan Quinones, a Capital Pride organizer, said drug use is prevalent in the LGBTQ community and he wants to be prepared despite never seeing an overdose himself.

"But I have friends who have been in those kinds of experiences and, unfortunately, one of my friends lost one of his friends because of an overdose," Quinones said.

Bryan Quinones, a youth co-ordinator for Capital Pride, says he wanted to know more about naloxone kits so he can help people in the LGBTQ community. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Anne-Marie Urli, a University of Ottawa criminology student, said she experienced a similar loss when a friend-of-a-friend died of an overdose because there was fentanyl in cocaine.

"Sometimes you don't know that you're using opioids and it's unexpected. It could happen to everyone," she said.

Amy Moen, who lives near Rideau Street in Sandy Hill, said she decided she wanted to be trained after the supervised injection site opened.

"If something happens I want to be prepared and able to help if I can," Moen said.

Eddie Chow, a participant at the naloxone training session, says learning to use the opioid antidote is akin to CPR or first-aid training. (Matthew Kupfer/CBC)

Eddie Chow, who identifies as a member of the gay community, said he doesn't know if his friends use opioids but he wanted training because of stories of the effect and reach of the overdose crisis. 

"It's no different from learning CPR or first aid," he said. "At least I'll be able to use [the kit] ... if I never get to use it, I'll be happy."

More training to come

A volunteer group called Communities Organizing for Harm Reduction and the AIDS Committee of Ottawa helped provide the training.

Courtney Davis has been providing volunteer training for more than a year.

"When we started doing stuff like this, it was really people downtown, people who party. But now we're getting all kinds of people because all kinds of people are being touched by it," she said.

A second fully-booked training session with 60 people has been organized for February and a third is expected in March, according to Max Ottawa.