North

Yukon organization offers naloxone training to businesses, after uptick in overdose deaths

Yukon's Blood Ties Four Directions Centre is offering free naloxone kits for businesses, and training in how to use them. Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

'The more naloxone kits we can get out into our community, the better'

The Blood Ties Four Directions Centre is offering free naloxone kits for businesses, and training in how to use them. Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. (Christine Rankin/CBC)

Yukon business owners are being urged to have naloxone kits handy at their establishments, after an uptick in the number of opioid-related deaths in the territory this year.

"We wanted to once again encourage people, especially bars, restaurants and hotels — where people may be more likely to experience overdose or be using substances — to get training if they wanted," said Brontë Renwick-Shields, executive director of the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre, a non-profit that focuses on harm reduction.

The organization is offering free naloxone kits for businesses, and training in how to use them. Naloxone is a medication that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose.

"The more naloxone kits we can get out into our community, the better," said Renwick-Shields.

Last month, the Yukon Coroner's Service said 13 people had died from drug overdoses in 2020 so far in the territory, with six of those deaths occurring in June alone. Heather Jones, chief coroner, said 11 of this year's deaths involved opioids.

That's almost double the number of annual deaths related to the drug since 2016, when the opioid crisis made its way into the Yukon, she said. 

Naloxone kits are available from Blood Ties Four Directions' outreach van and elsewhere. (Submitted by Emily Jones)

Renwick-Shields says the COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the problem.

"Since 2016, when this [opioid] crisis was declared, we've always been in the middle of a health crisis — and now we're in the middle of two," she said.

"We have seen changes in the drug supply. We've seen folks that are more isolated due to the pandemic. We know that a risk for overdose is using alone," she said.

Naloxone kits are key to keeping more people safe, according to Renwick-Shields.

'We'd rather be prepared than not prepared'

Blood Ties Four Directions has offered training on how to use the kits to businesses in the past. Renwick-Shields says the training can be done in about 15 minutes.

Joe Beckett, who manages the Yukon Inn in Whitehorse, says some of his employees were trained.

"A couple of my bartenders actually came on their own and were like, 'hey, what do you think about this, like is it OK? Do you have a problem if we are trained on this, just in case?'" Beckett said.

"They're like, 'if something happens, we'd rather be prepared than not prepared.'"

Beckett says his employees have not had to respond to a potential overdose yet, but he's glad they know what to do if it happens. He's also encouraging other businesses to take advantage of the training being offered. 

"Maybe you're not required to have it, but I mean, if it's there and it's simple and it's easy, why wouldn't you?"

Renwick-Shields says her organization is willing to go wherever they're invited, to provide a naloxone kit and offer training. People can also get naloxone kits at the Blood Ties Four Directions Centre in Whitehorse, the organization's outreach van, the Whitehorse emergency shelter, and hospitals and community health centres, she said. 

"Really, for the amount of time that it takes, and to save a life, it's really something that I would encourage anyone to do, if they can," she said.

With files from Elyn Jones and Chris MacIntyre

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