Northern Sask. health region provides take-home naloxone kits

A health region in northern Saskatchewan is now offering take-home naloxone kits to help prevent deaths due to opioid overdose.

Potentially life-saving medication can reverse effects of an opioid overdose

A health region employee practises using a syringe. (Submitted by Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority)

A health region in northern Saskatchewan is now offering take-home naloxone kits to help prevent deaths due to opioid overdose.

"Anywhere where opioids are used, there's a need for these kits, and we have opioid usage in our health region," Byrne Richards, director of addictions and mental health for the Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority, told CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition.

Naloxone is a potentially life-saving medication that can reverse the effects of an overdose and has become the standard treatment for overdoses of fentanyl, a synthetic drug that is 50-100 times more potent than morphine.

Providing the kits aligns with the principles of harm reduction.

"We're not here to judge people for doing what they do," said Richards.

"It's about keeping people alive, to stay alive long enough to maybe make a better choice, whatever it is they choose."
Take-home naloxone kits are now available in the Keewatin Yatthe health region. (Submitted by Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority)

Keewatin Yatthe Regional Health Authority is the ninth health region in the province to offer the kits, along with Saskatoon, Regina Qu'Appelle, Prairie North, Sunrise, Prince Albert, Five Hills, Sun Country and Heartland.

The Ministry of Health is providing $50,000 this year to fund take-home naloxone programs in the health regions.

In Keewatin Yatthe, the take-home kits contain two doses of injectable naloxone, a syringe, an alcohol swab, a face shield, gloves and an instruction manual.

The kits are free to at-risk people, who must take 60 to 90 minutes of training on recognizing, preventing and responding to an overdose.

"There's some education that needs to happen in relation to how to, and when to do, injections, and what it's about and why we would want to," said Richards.

One of the reasons individuals are asked to come for training is to offer support and to help reduce the stigma around drug use. Richards said people may be frequently using opioids in isolation.

The training includes how to help those using opioids.

People who are interested in more information about the take-home naloxone kits in Keewatin Yatthe or in the region's training program can call 306-235-5822.

With files from CBC Radio's Afternoon Edition