Take Home Naloxone program implemented by UBC nursing student proven to save lives for at-risk people
While they don’t happen often, drug overdoses are a reality in Kelowna. And for staff at the downtown Outreach Urban Health Centre, they know overdose deaths are preventable. So when the BC Centre for Disease Control (BCCDC) introduced a pilot project called Take Home Naloxone, the potential to save lives was one step closer.
Naloxone is a prescription drug that can reverse heroin, morphine, and other opioid-based overdoses. When an addict overdoses, they go into respiratory distress and an injection of naloxone, if administered quickly, can get that person breathing again.
Under the direction of an outreach clinic, at-risk people would be given a kit they would carry with them. Inside each kit are two ampoules of naloxone, two hypodermic needles, and basic instructions. It is similar to an allergic-reaction EpiPen, but easier to use and has no harmful side effects.
“Drug addicts and those who live on the streets, deserve the right to proper health care, as do all B.C. residents,” Avneet Khela.
Avneet Khela, who graduated last month with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from UBC’s Okanagan campus, played a crucial role in preparing for the implementation of this program at Kelowna’s Outreach Urban Health Centre. This spring Khela spent six weeks at the centre as a practice placement and did much of the vital groundwork for the program.
Big learning curve
Khela quickly became immersed in the job, showing up before dawn, going out on the streets with outreach workers, helping people, and ensuring they got the help they needed that day. The more people she met, the more convinced she became that naloxone had to be in the hands of people who use opioids.
“From the very first day on the job, this has been such a big learning curve for me, and I’ve learned so much about myself and the need for outreach in this community,” she says.
Kelowna ranks fifth in B.C. for deaths from illicit drugs, with 46 fatalities in the past five years. Until the province launched the initiative in 2012, only the BC Ambulance Service (BCAS) and medical personnel could administer the medication. In 2011, BCAS used naloxone 2,367 times.
“Drug addicts and those who live on the streets, deserve the right to proper health care, as do all B.C. residents,” says Khela.
UBC Nursing instructor Natalie Murdoch says the development of the clinic’s Take Home Naloxone pilot program is a great example of the benefits of the UBC and Interior Health partnership, along with the help of the BCCDC.
“The curriculum for our Registered Nurse program focuses on equity and social justice as part of understanding a particular population’s life experience with health and healing,” Murdoch explains. “Avneet’s placement is the perfect example of that, and that’s why we are so grateful to our community partners. They are seen by us at the School of Nursing as an integral aspect of the education that nursing students receive at UBC’s Okanagan campus.”
For more information about the BC Take Home Naloxone pilot project check out www.towardtheheart.com