Free naloxone kits are now available in nine locations around Manitoba, including three in Winnipeg and others in Flin Flon, Gillam, Pine Falls, Selkirk, The Pas and Thompson.
Naloxone is a drug that blocks the effects of opioids and can be administered intravenously, intramuscularly or via a nasal spray. Administering it to someone suffering from an opioid overdose can keep them alive and breathing so first responders have time to transport them to a hospital or other medical facility for treatment. People who request a take-home naloxone kit will be given training on how to recognize an opioid overdose and how to use the kit, as well as information on addiction and harm reduction. The expanded distribution of the kits via Street Connections builds on a program that saw 245 kits distributed in Winnipeg in 2016, which the provincial government says resulted in 31 overdoses being reversed.
"Overdose is one of the leading causes of accidental death in Manitoba," said Health, Seniors and Active Living Minister Kelvin Goertzen in a Jan. 3 press release. "Making naloxone kits available across the province won't stop the opioids crisis but it will save lives and help prevent overdoses."
The RCMP announced in November that it was providing more than 1,000 naloxone kits to frontline officers throughout the province.
Opioids include drugs derived from opium poppies like morphine and heroin as well as synthetic and semi-synthetic drugs like hydrocodone, oxycodone and fentanyl.
The RCMP said in November that fentanyl – a prescription painkiller far more powerful than morphine – is present throughout the province, including urban centres and rural communities policed by the RCMP, though its officers had not had to respond to any medical emergencies involving fentanyl yet.
Thompson RCMP police community relations officer Const. Sandy Deibert said in a Nov. 24 news release that police have not encountered the drug in Thompson yet but it could eventually find its way here.
“For those not using illicit drugs, your risk is low,” the news release said. “However unintentional exposure to the drug can cause serious harm. Signs of an overdose can include, but are not limited to: severe sleepiness, slow, shallow breathing, lips and nails that turn blue, cold and clammy skin, and unresponsiveness. If anyone has concerns about exposure to fentanyl please contact emergency medical services immediately.”
Free naloxone kits are available from Thompson Public Health, Gillam Public Health, the Flin Flon Primary Health Care Centre, The Pas Primary Health Care Centre, the Selkirk Public Health Office and the Nations-First Pharmacy in Pine Falls. Street Connections says that people with health coverage under First Nations Inuit Health are eligible for free naloxone kits from pharmacies where they are sold. Street Connections also recommends that opioid users bring someone who is likely to be with them if they overdose such as a friend or family member when they go to pick up a naloxone kit so that person will know how to respond to an opioid overdose.