Nursing students at Thompson Rivers University in Williams Lake are encouraging everyone to learn how to administer Naloxone — the medication used to reverse an opioid overdose.
“There is training online that takes about 15 to 20 minutes and once you are certified you can carry a Naloxone kit with you,” said second year student Lacey Kuttnick. “The kits are free at limited locations at this time. They are public health, mental health, the Boys and Girls Club and Three Corners Health.”
Anyone can take the training, she added.
At the beginning of December, Kuttnick along with second-year students Lee Ann Relkov, Kelsey Smith, Shelby Seibert and Alex Si-Swires began a pilot program focusing on Naloxone education.
Faculty member, Rhonda McCreight, said she thought the project was timely because of the opioid crisis in B.C. and the fact TRU is changing its policy so nursing students can administer Naloxone in their communities.
“Typically students are not allowed to give out stat medications in their clinical practice and because Naloxone is a stat med that you give to someone that is not breathing we did a lot of research around whether it is actually considered a stat medication versus truly first aid,” McCreight explained. “It is given by anyone who is able to give it.”
The policy still has to go through the university senate process to be fully implemented, but McCreight wanted the students to look at the opioid crisis and do an education project in preparation.
Relkov said they have gone to talk with some local merchants and organizations to see if they might be willing to be dispensing sites for the Naloxone kits.
“We would also like to go to Lake City Secondary Williams Lake campus and GROW to do an education program, but that will be next semester,” she added.
The students also did a poster project at Cariboo Memorial Hospital and said they were surprised when a man said to them, “let them die,” Relkov said.
“Lots of people believe it’s the chronic drug users that are overdosing and dying, but when we interviewed the provincial coroner, he said that most opioid deaths occur in recreational drug use,” she noted.
Statistics around opioid-related deaths are sobering, Kuttnick said, noting in B.C. there have been 2,000 deaths in 2017 already and those don’t include numbers for November and December.
“There were 827 deaths of males related to overdoses compared to 172 females, the provincial coroner told us. Most of those users were alone and at home,” she said, adding often the death rates are the highest in the month of December.
Smith said the feedback from the community so far has been good and some organizations have asked for more information.
“Hopefully that’s a good start,” Smith noted.
All of the students participating in the pilot program are from Williams Lake, except for Si-Swires who is from Quesnel.
As she opened up a Naloxone kit to show its contents, Relkov said it’s not a scary thing, but something anyone can administer.
“It’s something we can do to protect our community,” she added.