In the photo: Nurse Clinician Jaime Gallaher shows a take-home naloxone kit that they are now distributing to overdose patients when they go home
“The nurses are so excited. We had 20 nurses who jumped at the chance right away to teach other nurses how to use the kits,” says Nurse Clinician Jaime Gallaher who has helped make take-home naloxone kits available at the Vancouver General Hospital (VGH) Emergency Department (ED). In a matter of just a few weeks 47 VGH ED nurses have been trained and have already distributed six kits to patients since they started last week. The kits are being given to overdose patients upon discharge.
“I’m very excited to be part of a harm reduction program,” says Jaime. “It’s not as common in emergency to do harm reduction and education. So this is really exciting to be on the other end. And we don’t need a physician order, if the nurse identifies that a patient needs a kit the nurse can initiate it.”
VGH is now one of five VCH/PHC ED’s to be giving out the free kits. Within a month or two all 14 ED’s and urgent care centres will have kits available. Staff at Bella Coola General Hospital are up next to take the training.
Naloxone, or Narcan, is a medication that reverses the effects of an overdose from opioids (i.e. heroin, methadone, morphine, oxycodone and fentanyl.) Giving naloxone can prevent death or brain damage from lack of oxygen during an opioid overdose. Naloxone has been used in Canada for more than 40 years. It is used by staff at Insite to reverse overdoses.
Medical Health Officer Dr. Mark Lysyshyn says emergency departments are strategic dispensing sites for two reasons.
“People who have survived an overdose are at high risk of dying from a subsequent overdose,” says Mark. “This makes the emergency department a key site for giving people take home Naloxone and making sure they know how to use it. It can be a real teachable moment.”
The addition of EDs in the Take Home Naloxone (THN) Program is in response to the surge in drug-related overdose deaths across the region associated with fentanyl. In April, B.C. declared a public health emergency after another spike in drug-related overdoses and deaths.
There are 62 additional sites, including community health centres and harm reduction services, where people who use drugs can also access the free kits. All of the sites are listed on the Toward the Heart website
(and choose naloxone from the drop down box), a Provincial Harm Reduction Program.
For more information about overdoses, VCH’s response, visit editvch.phsa.ca/overdose.