The Kimberley Harm Reduction Collaborative held a wellness clinic on Friday, August 30, ahead of International Overdose Awareness Day, which takes place on August 31, 2019.
The clinic, which took place at the Kimberley Public Library, provided harm reduction information and supplies, along with acknowledging Overdose Awareness Day.
Alison Ko, who works as A Health Outreach Nurse for Interior Health, says that the purpose of the wellness clinic is not only to raise awareness of overdose and prevention, but also focus on reducing the stigma associated with addiction.
“August 31 is International Overdose Awareness Day, and there are pop-ups all over BC with the intention of getting the conversation going on how to keep people safe,” Ko explained, adding that one of the focuses is training and education of naloxone kits, which she says are the leading prevention in overdose.
“The naloxone kits reverse an overdose (typically involved with opiates). There are lots of contaminated drugs circulating throughout the province,” she said. “The three most effective ways to keep people safe in an overdose are to use the basic breathing technique, call 911, and administer the naloxone medication. Also, the key is – don’t use alone.”
All of these steps are outlined in naloxone kits, which can be found at Shoppers Drug Mart in Kimberley, the Kimberley Health Centre and the Emergency Room at East Kootenay Regional Hospital in Cranbrook.
Training is also provided when you pick up a kit, however for those wishing to train in private, videos and information can be found at towardtheheart.com.
Another important factor, says Ko, is that in the past, people in overdose situations have avoided calling 911 for fear of being charged with possession.
“It’s important to know that the RCMP has set regulations that prevent anyone from being searched in the instance of an overdose,” Ko said. “It’s about saving lives.”
In terms of the Wellness clinic, Ko said throughout the day she had many conversations with people who either wanted to find out more information or who have been affected by overdose and/or addiction.
“I think that most people have been impacted by someone who’s struggled with addiction or had an overdose,” said Ko. “That’s why we want to continue the conversation.”
Another way that harm reduction teams around the East Kootenay are combining their efforts are through the Compassion Project, which is an art project that exists to spark curiosity about the beliefs, values and assumptions that surround drug use, with the ultimate goal of building compassion through increased awareness and understanding.
Michelle Shewell, who works for the BC Responsible and Problem Gambling and Gaming Program is part of the Kimberley Harm Reduction Collaborative. She was at the wellness clinic on Friday preparing an art piece in remembrance of those lost to addiction and overdose.
“A big part of my job is community outreach,” Shewell explained. “So for example, at Shambhala we had a live tree where people were able to hang the names of friends and loved ones lost to addiction and overdose.
“I wanted to bring that idea back to Kimberley, but decided a real tree wasn’t exactly sustainable.”
So Shewell is painting a tree instead, where members of the community can write down the names of those they have lost to addiction and overdose, and stick them to the tree.
“We want to take it to different events and remember and honour those lost,” she said.
Sewell adds that harm reduction teams are always on site at festivals, and that drug testing is available. In Kimberley, fentanyl test strips are available at the same locations naloxone kits are, which are an effective way of testing for fentanyl, she says.