Festival organizers in Ottawa are gearing up for this summer's party season by training staff to recognize and treat opioid overdoses.
Public officials have issued dire warnings over the dangers of opioids amid an unprecedented spike in suspected fentanyl overdoses across the city.
Ottawa Public Health, working through the city's Special Events Advisory Team (SEAT), is training festival staff on how to identify opioid overdoses, and how to administer naloxone, the antidote that can reverse the effects of the drugs.
The training has become mandatory, according to Christine Leadman, executive director of the Bank Street BIA, organizer of this weekend's Glowfair street festival.
"You have to come back and demonstrate you're putting these things in place or you don't get a [festival] permit," Leadman said.
Staff with the security firm hired for Glowfair has received the training from Ottawa Public Health, Leadman said.
Members of the Canadian Ski Patrol, also trained to recognize and treat opioid oversoses, will be keeping watch over the crowd at the Escapade electronic music festival, taking place at Lansdowne Park later in June.
"Paramedics are also on site, but all these ski patrol members are also trained in naloxone, so they'll be able to address any issues [that arise] among festival-goers," said Ali Shafee, an Escapade organizer.
Prom organizers also prepared
Ottawa Public Health is also targeting prom night organizers for opioid training.
"This is indeed the first year we have had to deal with the opioid crisis," confirmed Jason Antoine, founder of Promnight.ca, the company hired by the majority of Ottawa high schools to organize their events.
"Our key staff carry [naloxone] kits at all times during events and have been trained and educated to swiftly deal with an overdose scenario," Antoine wrote in a statement.
Antoine said no employees have had to administer naloxone yet at any of the company's events.
He said some students have asked whether they can bring their own naloxone kits, and have been told not to because "our key staff and emergency medical personnel are already trained and equipped."