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Oxford public health is training local agencies on how they can use the life-saving kits to prevent opioid overdoses

By Heather Rivers, Woodstock Sentinel-Review

Oxford County public health offered free naloxone training to prevent opioid overdoses on Thursday morning. From left, back row: Jenilee Cook, Trish Freeman, Stacey Smith, Emily Keegan and Lisa Ball. Front row:  Nora Shantz and Carly-Ann Matos. (HEATHER RIVERS, Sentinel-Review)

Oxford County public health offered free naloxone training to prevent opioid overdoses on Thursday morning. From left, back row: Jenilee Cook, Trish Freeman, Stacey Smith, Emily Keegan and Lisa Ball. Front row: Nora Shantz and Carly-Ann Matos. (HEATHER RIVERS, Sentinel-Review)

Oxford County is taking more steps towards combating the region’s opioid crisis with training on the use of lifesaving Naloxone kits.

Naloxone is a drug that can reverse the effects of opioid-related overdose.

A training session Thursday morning included community partners from Ingamo Homes, Oxford County Community Health Centre, Oxford CMHA and Addiction Services of Thames Valley.

From June 1, 2016 to July 31, 2017 participating pharmacies distributed 230 naloxone kits.

By distributing more kits and providing more training, the county’s hope is the prevention of more opioid-related deaths.

“It was a training the trainers day,” explained Jenilee Cook, a social worker with the community health centre. “I was taught to train others on how to use Naxolone or Narcan, which is its street name.”

Cook said the kits are so important “because people are dying in our community.”

“Street drugs are becoming more and more dangerous,” Cook said. “We have to be able to recognize when people are overdosing – so we can help.”

The training is part of three-pronged approach to dealing with opioid overdose and funded by $150,000 from the ministry of health.

Health protection supervisor Joanne Andrews said the kits are a response to the risk of overdose caused by illicit fentanyl being mixed into other street drugs.

“Illicit fentanyl can’t be detected by sight, smell or taste, so it is very easy for someone to unknowingly take it, and it only needs a small amount to cause an overdose,” she said.

Formerly the kits were only available at public health and pharmacies.

“We want to expand the distribution,” Andrews said.

Members of agencies who attended the session Thursday will also learn how to train people at risk of opioid overdose.

“It’s great because they have a trusted relationship with that person and can provide the kits directly to them,” Andrews said. “They feel really confident in being able to train people on Naloxone kits.”

Andrews said public health is also currently collecting data on overdose incidents “to be better informed on how to distribute the kits.”

Last year there were seven opioid-related deaths in Oxford, about the same as the provincial average.

Excluding cannabis and alcohol, it is estimated that approximately 400 to 1,200 Oxford County residents may be at risk of experiencing negative health outcomes from opioid and other substance misuse.

Among Oxford residents, 45.2 per cent reported ever using an illicit drug and 45.2 per cent say they have used one in the previous year.

HRivers@postmedia.com