Naloxone Training

With the province making a dedicated push to get  Naloxone out to first responders and those working on the frontlines with those struggling with addiction who live on our streets, I was very keen to get some training and ensure I have a  kit as part of my own first aid equipment.

One of my son’s close childhood friends is also struggling with addiction and lives with his girlfriend who has a Heroin addiction. I reached out to the mother of this young man and asked if she would like to join me as she could pass along the kit to her son. We connected with Heather Hobbs of Aids Vancouver Island and spent an hour at their agency walking through the kit and how to administer the Naloxone. It was an eye opening hour not only to learn the ins and outs of administering Naloxone, but also to get a sense of what agencies are dealing with on the street level in terms of the number of overdose incidents. She shared that a week doesn’t go by where the staff are not administering Naloxone. She also talked about the importance of getting safe injection sites up and running as soon as possible and shared that many people will come to “use” substances in their stairwells just because they know someone may come upon them and help if they overdose.

There is no question that the use of Naloxone is saving lives. Included in the kit are three ampules of this life saving drug and there is no risk to injecting individuals with all three of the ampules if someone does not respond to the first or second injection. In speaking with the RCMP regarding my son’s passing, they mentioned that if they come upon an individual who is unconscious and they are uncertain if it is an overdose, they will still use the Naloxone nasal spray with no adverse consequence. It was an informative hour and I left feeling very committed to getting the word out regarding Naloxone and encouraging individuals, middle/high schools, nightclubs, etc. to have this as part of their first aid kits.

Naloxone kits can be purchased for roughly $50 at major pharmacies without a prescription and you can request that a pharmacist give you a run through on how to use it.

Jennifer Howard

Presently trying to save my beautiful daughter after a near-fatal overdose

My journey as a mother to Victoria began on a rainy January 14th at 7:35 AM in St. Paul's Hospital, Vancouver. Holding her in my arms, I promised her I would protect her from harm and love her to my last breath. Twenty-five years, 9 months, 15 days and 11 hours later I am back at St. Paul’s, sitting at my daughter's bedside, holding her hand, staring at her in a coma—tube down her throat—watching machines keep her alive.

I knew this day would come.


Victoria was a beautiful, funny, special child—sensitive and attuned to others. Everyone she met was instantly drawn to her. She was popular, loved, and respected by her peers for her perception and her unusually mature reasoning. She was sought out as a counsellor by her friends...and even my own. She began playing soccer at nine and that was the start of weekends filled with sports. When soccer was over, field hockey began. She was good and was even scouted while playing in the rep soccer league as a teenager. Offers of full scholarships from universities came in. At 18 she was taking her prerequisites to start a bachelor of science degree and regularly achieving 100% math scores. She worked hard. Her employers loved her and she was spectacular at saving money and planning for the future. She taught herself guitar. She was a very bright and beloved girl.

Sounds like a pretty great life so far, doesn't it?

The Real, Real

But while all these positive things were happening, every day and every minute Victoria suffered extreme anxiety and depression. I tried hard to seek relief for her. And, it seems, so did she. The Dr. Phil producers called one day. Victoria had written to them pretending to be me and selling our family as ideal for the show and thus eligible for free therapy for a year. I declined the offer and kept searching for help. There was none. One day in May 2009 Victoria left the house for the day. She didn’t return for the entire weekend. This was completely out of character for my responsible, caring child. She started disappearing regularly.

Then she started to miss work. This was the biggest sign that we were in trouble. Friends and family were gobsmacked. People tried to comfort me saying Victoria was going through a stage and she would come to her senses soon. But she didn’t come home I knew this wasn't a teenager’s seeking thrills. It was her fight to quiet the agony in her mind and nerves.

Street life

Victoria has only shown love to her family—this beautiful daughter of mine keeps all her hate and shame for herself. On the street, she finds comfort with the marginalized people, some of them from families that only harm and abuse. She shows them extreme compassion. Victoria feels free from any expectations or judgment when she is with them. But during her time on the street, she was raped, hurt. I may never know how hurt. She found relief from the pain in drugs and alcohol, and about eight months ago, Victoria found her perfect haven from the agony—heroin.

Heroin wraps her in a warm embrace where she feels safe and everything is good. Except this escape has another way out: death. Death answers when you seek permanent release with heroin.

Fighting for my Child

When the ICU medical team told me she had been out of oxygen for over an hour and that, if by some miracle she woke up at all, the likely prognosis was severe brain damage, all I thought was, “Thank god! I'll be able to bring her back to safety. I can hold my daughter and bring her home. The nightmare will be over.”

But Victoria defied the odds. She woke up from her coma. She sat up. The breathing tube was removed. She spoke. She was back. She hasn't escaped brain injury. Her heart is damaged. And there are other consequences we won’t know about until later. But she is alive. For now.

It's Not Over

She was released from the ICU and transferred to the 10th floor—the addictions, HIV, and infectious disease unit at St. Paul's. She has been certified under the mental health act. This is keeping her here. She wants her drugs but she is trapped. I sleep beside her. I have been with her 11 days. Watching my daughter teeter back from death so that I can hold her again.

As I write sitting on my mattress on the floor, I am under no illusion that Victoria will snap out of her addiction and say, “Mom! I want treatment. I need my life back!” She is too entrenched. Her brain is too hardwired with the compulsion to medicate.

But something else is happening. She hasn't bolted. She stays because deep down she knows she needs help. This is a slight hope. I can’t hope too much. Too much hope is exhausting. But I will not leave her side. I promised her that over 25 years ago.

The art of detachment.

Right now Victoria can't run away from my love, her dad’s love, from the love of her sisters and brothers, aunts, uncles, and friends. She is kept in one place to witness this love. Maybe she is starting to see herself through their loving eyes. Just a little. This is very good. Maybe when she gets out, she can let this love be recalled and sink in to warm her. To find comfort. To find her way home to herself.

I know she isn't doing this to me but nothing is more painful than seeing your child doing this to themselves.

I have a long fight ahead with Victoria. I can't let it kill me when she walks away. I have to be there for our three other children. I have to let go of sadness and shine with love.

Someone Please End the Madness

Addiction is killing us. The front-line teams of medical, addictions, and psychiatry in this hospital are fighting a heartbreaking epidemic. It is a crisis and the casualties just keep coming in. It's a revolving door. I don't know how these professionals do it.

They have said that my being here by her side, constantly fighting for her, never happens. Why? Because we need to end the stigma. Normalize this disease that affects every single person in our country and across the globe. They wage war against our children when they declare war on drugs. Legalize drugs so that we can get the supply out of the hands of organized crime. We need more research. We need funding for every town across our country to be able to offer evidence-based treatment and harm reduction.

Let the lost and hurt be guided to other ways to handle their pain while being given solace in the open by professionals.

Why is this so impossible for government to understand? Maybe it is because the powers that be are lacking empathy—the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. In a way, I hope so. Because if they truly do understand and do is unforgivable.

Sarah Rae, Pender Island, BC

Good Samaritan Overdose Act

My son Kelly's story was mentioned in Ottawa in an effort to gain support of the act. RIP buddy, your job isn't quite done yet. 

Debate finished on Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act - vote today
Please see below the text of Mr. McKinnon’s speech in the House of Commons today at Third Reading. Debate finished on the bill and will be voted upon this upcoming Wednesday. If passed, it will be referred to the Senate.

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank all members of this House for their support of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. Members from all regions of Canada became co-seconders of C-224. The rules of this House did not allow for more than 20. That is a resounding call to the need for this legislation to be passed – and quickly. Members recognize that this bill will save lives.
During my second reading speech, I spoke of two young men – Austin and Kelly. Austin, Kelly– and indeed countless other souls – might have been with us today if the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act had been law when they made a mistake. A mistake that cost them their lives. We can never know for sure.

When I was researching this bill – even before I introduced C-224 – it was evident that this law is sorely needed. What I did not expect was the groundswell of support that came out shortly after the bill’s first reading. Groups and individuals from every part of Canada called and emailed telling me how much this legislation is needed. I thank them for that. That support motivated me even more to make sure this bill becomes law.

Mr. Speaker, this house is steeped in democratic traditions. Our legislative process gives members the ability to scrutinize legislation. We are elected by and for our constituents to represent their values, beliefs and desires. During second reading, I heard impassioned speeches from both sides of this House – some of which were very personal, making it clear that the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act had broad support.

Outside this chamber, it is the committees that continue Canada’s democratic traditions. Committees give each piece of legislation more scrutiny. The Standing Committee on Health did just that. The committee did its job well. They heard from many witnesses – from paramedics, frontline workers, Austin’s mom, academics and from drug users themselves. For me, the most compelling testimony came from the drug using community. That community does not feel safe and does fear law enforcement in an overdose situation.

The committee heard that this bill does not go far enough – that exemptions from prosecution should be broadened beyond simple possession. I agree with that. Studies show that fear of prosecution for possession is one of the key reasons that people do not call 911 in the event of a drug overdose. But there are also other reasons: outstanding warrants and breach of probation.
This bill is only one piece of the harm reduction toolkit – a toolkit that needs to be broadened and expanded over time. I believe it would have been good to have broadened the scope of the bill to include outstanding warrants and breach of probation. That however would have made the bill way to complex and controversial, lessening the chances of its passage. If passed in its current form, The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act will still save lives.

I laud the health committee for their work on this bill and for referring the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act back to this house without amendment. The committee recognized the urgency of opioid deaths and how C-224 is desperately needed in Canada.

The committee should also be commended for taking heed of the testimony they heard during the study on C-224. The powerful testimony of witnesses led to a motion being introduced during the deliberations on the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act – a motion to study the opioid crisis in Canada. Now, the committee is doing just that – and I have been honoured to have participated in some of the committee’s meetings on that study.

We can’t delay taking action on the opioid crisis in Canada. During the course of the deliberations on this bill, countless lives have been lost. I see it in the news every day. We do not know how many lives would have been saved if the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act was law.

Our government is continuing to put more tools in that harm reduction toolkit since this bill was introduced. That includes removing Naloxone from list of prescription drugs. It is also making the six essential ingredients that make deadly fentanyl controlled substances. And in the coming weeks, the Minister of Health is arranging an opioid abuse summit which will prioritize how we can start to get out of this mess.

Mr. Speaker, I thank members of this house for their support of the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. I want to thank the Library of Parliament, the House of Commons legal department and the Private Member’s Business Office or their incredible support on Bill C-224. There are several moving pieces to drafting and supporting legislation and without them this bill would not have happened.

Ultimately this bill needs to become law. Mr. Speaker, I ask all Members of the House to come together and support The Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act to help save lives.

Thank you, Mr. Speaker.

By Marie Agioritis

This Friday I went to UBCO to take in a movie, and ended up in a meeting with some faculty, security and students....

The students are focused and committed to harm reduction and prevention.   They are an inspirational crew! Here are the highlights!  

  • A prevention campaign will kick off next week. There will be increased posters, tabling and displays in all cases on campus for fentanyl / naloxone awareness 
  • Harm Reduction: The wellness RN on campus, reported that 6 naloxone kits have now been dispersed on campus.  Students have been researching where best to get naloxone kits off campus in the event that stigma keeps students away. UBCO will also be hosting a naloxone training session in the near future.
  • Good Samaritan Policy and Amnesty proposal: A major ask was for the institution to consider an immediate amnesty for any student that helps a friend in event of an on campus overdose.
  • We are looking at a UBCO commitment that students will not face any consequences whether residential or institutional for calling for a friend or seeking medical help for themselves. There will be follow up with the students on this as UBCO believe it to be a key piece for reducing risk for our students.

Overall, a terrific meeting!

Arlene Howe