Take-home anti-overdose kits saving lives in Red Deer, front line workers say

People on the front lines of the fentanyl drug crisis in Red Deer say take-home anti-overdose kits have been used 89 times since last summer, saving lives. They are urging the province to make the drug available without a prescription.

Almost 90 people have used the kits since they were introduced last summer

Jennifer Vanderschaeghe runs Turning Point, a group distributing naloxone kits in Red Deer. (CBC)

People working on the front lines of the fentanyl drug crisis in Red Deer say a take-home antidote is saving lives — as almost 90 people have used the kits since they were introduced last summer.

They're urging the province to make the drug naloxone, which reverses the effects of opiate overdoses, available without a prescription as soon as possible.

"The uptake on the naloxone kits is amazing," says Jennifer Vanderschaeghe, executive director of Turning Point, a community group that has been distributing naloxone kits to drug users in Red Deer in an effort to stop fentanyl overdoses.

"When we were looking at starting the program, we were thinking we might be able to get 100 kits out. Well, we absolutely surpassed that."

Vanderschaeghe says since July 2015, 360 kits have been distributed and used 89 times.

Though the statistics are still being compiled for 2015, Calgary police project 300 people province-wide will have died from fentanyl, compared to 120 deaths in 2014.

Sarah Fleck, a nurse with Turning Point's overdose prevention program, says she wants to see naloxone become available over the counter.

"Right now they require a prescription, which means they require being seen by a registered nurse, or a doctor who can prescribe, or a pharmacist," says Fleck.

"We would like increased accessibility to that and as well as increased accessibility to treatment options," she added.

Last month, Health Canada changed the status of naloxone to a non-prescription drug.

The Alberta government has said it supports the move, but it's still working on removing the provincial prescription requirements.