British Columbia

How to save a life: Volunteers hold workshop for naloxone training, story sharing

As the number of overdose deaths in B.C. continues to rise, people on the front lines are looking to share both information and firsthand stories in order to to get more hands in the battle against the opioid crisis.

Public workshop brings the Downtown Eastside to neighbourhoods around Vancouver

The first "How To Save a Life: Front Line Stories" workshop was held at the Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House last week. The workshops continue weekly around Vancouver until Nov. 18 (Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House)

The numbers tell part of the story — 1,013 people have died of a suspected drug overdose since the beginning of the year, compared to 922 in all of 2016, the B.C. Coroners Service announced last week.

As the numbers continue to rise, people on the front lines are looking to share both information and firsthand stories in order to to get more hands in the battle against the opioid crisis.

"How To Save A Life: Front Line Stories" is a series of public workshops being held in neighbourhoods throughout Vancouver until mid-November, hosted by Overdose Prevention Society and Megaphone Magazine. 

"Knowledge is power," said Nicolas Crier, one of the speakers at the first workshop in Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House last week.

The 90-minute workshops include training on recognizing the signs of an opioid overdose and administering naloxone to counteract an overdose.

Men and women from the Downtown Eastside whose lives have been affected by the overdose crisis also share their personal stories. 

Nicolas Crier, left, is a volunteer in the Downtown Eastside and shared his story at last week's workshop. (Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House)

Training, stories

Crier is a volunteer with Spikes on Bikes, an overdose outreach program that has him biking around the community and training others on overdose prevention.

In the past year, Crier said, he's administered the opioid reversal medication naloxone 15 times.

Crier said he doesn't take opioids, but described himself as a functioning intravenous drug user.

"I'd rather have a bunch of people trained in [naloxone] tonight and be ready to deal with an O.D. than worry about if they understand my personal story about how I got into drugs," he said.

At the same time, Crier said, he wants to take the conversation outside of the Downtown Eastside and dispel some of the stigma around drug users.

Sharing knowledge

Jackie Wong, the workshop facilitator, said she is especially looking forward to bringing the workshops to neighbourhoods around the city that otherwise might not have as many public conversations about illicit drugs.

"It's an exciting opportunity to be able to bring knowledge from the Downtown Eastside to the community outside the neighbourhood and be able to celebrate the resilience of the storytellers who are participating," said Wong. 

More than 50 people showed up to the first workshop, from friends of the speakers to members of the community at large, like Jamie Ashby, who came over from the North Shore. She said she wants to learn how to help.

"It's not just a fight that users have to fight, it touches of all us," Ashby said. "I have somebody at my work whose child died, I have people that were close to me that have died and it's crazy how prevalent it is."

Monica Dare sat in the front row at the workshop, eager to learn what to do to help in her neighbourhood near Commercial Drive. 

"I've seen people that appear to be overdosing on the Drive and I don't know what to do. I want to learn what to do to help them and save them," Dare said. "They are part of my community."

The workshops are being held in different locations around the city and run weekly until Nov. 13.

With files from The Early Edition.