Nfld. & Labrador

Expect to see more naloxone pop-up tents at summer events

SWAP wants you to think of anti-overdose kits as the same as first aid kits.

Think of them like a first aid kit, says St. John's volunteer group

Volunteer Jenn Smith says people should think of naloxone kits in the same way they think of first aid kits. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

As summer festival season heats up across Newfoundland and Labrador, volunteers at pop-up naloxone sites — set up alongside stalls serving french fries and cotton candy — are offering to teach you how to save a life.

If you have a first aid kit you should have a naloxone kit too.- Jenn Smith

At the Mundy Pond Regatta on Sunday, next to booths that advertised popular games like the ring toss and balloon darts, volunteers were teaching crowd members how to administer naloxone in the event of an opioid overdose.

"We're just training as many people as we can because it's not just people who use drugs on a regular basis who are overdosing," said volunteer Jenn Smith.

Next to Charlie's Wagon cotton candy stand at the Mundy Pond Regatta in St. John's on Sunday, event attendees were being trained to use a naloxone anti-overdose kit. (Andrew Sampson/CBC)

"It's people like nan who takes a prescription for morphine and forgets she took a pill and she overdoses. We're just kind of saying that if you have a first aid kit you should have a naloxone kit too because nobody is safe from overdose."

It's the second time volunteers have set up a pop-up naloxone tent at an event this summer. They were also at Canada Day celebrations on George Street earlier this month.

Naloxone kits include equipment to inject the antidote to an opioid overdose. (CBC News)

When people are given the chance to learn about naloxone, Smith said many of them jump at the opportunity.

"We're getting a variety of people, a lot of people saying, 'I have friends who use drugs,' or someone who's saying 'I heard about this on the news.'"

Tree Walsh, of the Safe Works Access Program (SWAP), said the pop-up tents are a partnership between SWAP, community groups, the city of St. John's and the provincial government.

Overdose could be medication mix-up

Originally, the idea for the pop-up tents came from Health Minister John Haggie, she said, and is a way to remove the stigma around overdoses and make people more comfortable talking about them.

Tree Walsh says the pop-up naloxone training tents will be in Shea Heights for the community celebrations this summer, and she hopes they will also be at Folk Fest and the Regatta and Quidi Vidi Lake. (Gary Locke/CBC)

"An opioid overdose can happen for a number of reasons — sometimes it's accidental, simply because a person has taken their meds that they've already taken and forgot about. So it can be as simple as a mistake like that."

The pop-up tents started on July 1 at the George Street Canada Day celebrations, where Walsh said they gave out 27 kits. At the Mundy Pond Regatta, 22 kits were handed out.

SWAP volunteers say you should get trained to use a naloxone kit the same way you would a first aid kit. (Sherry Vivian/CBC)

Walsh said the kits should help families dealing with drug users, and while she knows about other plans for St. John's pop-up tents, she's not sure what groups are organizing outside the city.

The pop-up tents will be at the Shea Heights community celebration, and Walsh is also hoping to have them at the Royal St. John's Regatta at Quidi Vidi Lake, as well as the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival at Bannerman Park.