Nfld. & Labrador

Provincewide naloxone advertising campaign to launch in N.L.

N.L Health Minister John Haggie is unveiling an advertising campaign aimed at educating drug users and their families about how and where to access naloxone kits.

Opioid antidote can save lives, if drug users and their families know where to find it

Health Minister John Haggie is to unveil a naxalone advertising campaign. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

Newfoundland and Labrador's provincial public awareness campaign to be unveiled on Monday aims to ensure that anyone who wants a naloxone kit will know where to get one.

Twenty-one people are alive in the province today because they had access to the opioid antidote naloxone, according to Dr. John Haggie, N.L. minister of health and community services. 

The awareness campaign launched today will target locations across the province in order to warn people that drugs mixed with opioids can kill them.

"It's to try to get to a community that might be very isolated and very marginalized," said Haggie.

The campaign will include internet and newspaper ads, as well as leaflets and wallet cards containing essential information. A poster blitz is also planned.

Posters like this one aimed at creating awareness around the use of naxalone for potentially fatal opioid overdoses will be plastered across the province. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"They'll be on the bars on George Street, or in Corner Brook or Gander," said Haggie. "They'll be in hospitals, community centres and theatres. There'll be something to see in the street."

It really is an issue of concern to everybody.- Tree Walsh, SWAP needle exchange

In a three-week period this spring there were 18 overdoses in the St. John's area.

Jim Chapman told CBC News earlier this month that his 39-year-old daughter, Nicole, died from an overdose of fentanyl-laced heroin. Street drugs are increasingly being mixed with fentanyl to increase their potency.

The powerful synthetic opioid fentanyl first arrived in the province about four years ago. Twenty-three overdoses have been attributed to the drug so far this year on the Eastern Avalon. 

The office of the chief medical examiner told CBC News last week that only one death could be attributed to fentanyl.

Tree Walsh is a harm-reduction advocate who says it's important to inform families of drug users about how to find and use naloxone kits. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"It really is an issue of concern to everybody," said Tree Walsh, co-ordinator of the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP), a needle exchange in St. John's.

"When we first started to advocate for the distribution of naloxone that's one of the things that we highlighted, that it needs to be publicly advertised and it's finally rolling out," said Walsh.

It is a problem. It's not going to go away any time soon- Dr. John Haggie, N.L. health minister

Walsh is heartened that the message about what where to find naloxone kits will reach outside the capital city region. There are now 79 public access points across the province where naloxone kits can be obtained for free. The province has distributed 1,200 kits and plans to make more available.

"The easy point of contact is to ring 811. We will actually as part of our promotion be providing locations," said Haggie. 

Walsh stresses the importance of targeting families and friends of people using drugs so they can access kits and help prevent overdoses.

"Maybe the stigma of having a naloxone kit in your house will drop and it will be there next to your first aid kit,' said Walsh.

The province distributed naloxone kits to 79 public sites throughout Newfoundland and Labrador. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)

"It is a problem. It's not going to go away any time soon and we have to be prepared for the next phase of this whatever it might be," Haggie said.

Haggie will make an announcement on the public awareness campaign and new initiatives relating to the St. John's Community Action Group on Fentanyl this morning in Bannerman Park.

 He will be joined by Dennis O'Keefe, mayor of St. John's, and members of community outreach organizations.