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BC THN Program: A Way Back From Darkness

Posted on: August 28th, 2013

Naloxone is a safe and effective medication that can quickly reverse an opioid overdose. The BC Centre for Disease Control launched the BC Take Home Naloxone (THN) pilot program in August 2012 to provide overdose prevention and response training to people at risk and their friends and family. Only those who use opioids and complete the training are prescribed and dispensed a THN kit from a participating site. The kit contains the tools necessary to administer naloxone in the event of an overdose, giving people immediate access to a potentially life-saving treatment.

With the support of our community partners, we have much reason to celebrate at the one year mark. As of August 15, 2013, the BC THN program has:

  • Reversed 35 unintentional opioid overdoses
  • Distributed over 400 naloxone kits to people who use opioids from 24 sites in 4 health authorities
  • Trained an additional 150 service providers and friends and family members of people who use opioids in OD prevention and response in BC.

Program participants who have administered naloxone feel that the public needs greater access to naloxone and that every household where someone uses opioids should have a naloxone kit. Participants like to keep their naloxone kits in a safe yet convenient place. Many either keep their kits at home, for instance by their bed or with the first aid kit, or carry it on their person, either attached to a belt, in a backpack or inside their jackets. Participants recognize that overdoses can happen at any time and that it is important to be prepared. As one participant said,

“I let anybody who uses [opioids/drugs] and comes into my home know exactly where the kit is and how to administer the naloxone. It is very important.”

Service providers working at participating sites have also shared with us their thoughts about the program:

“From my experience, contrary to popular belief, opioid dependant individuals value their lives and most deaths from overdose are unintentional. As the lead prescriber in my programs, a non-judgmental approach in the conversation regarding the kits has also empowered some individuals to take the next step toward obtaining treatment for their addiction. This initiative, along with other harm reduction and treatment programs we offer, closes a significant gap in our care for individuals with opioid addiction.” – Dr. Ronald Joe, Medical Manager, VCH inner city programs

“The Take Home Naloxone program does not “enable” or “encourage” substance use and/or abuse anymore than wearing a seat belt enables a car crash.  Providing clients with the education and means to save their, or someone else’s, life is very empowering.  This program comes without judgments or assumptions and allows for honest discussions regarding substance use that hopefully leaves the client feeling more aware of their situation and confident to deal with it.”  – Rachel Kilback, Coordinator, Interior Chemical Dependency Office

“Our members enjoyed the training they underwent and expressed that they felt empowered to receive a Take Home Naloxone kit and to know how to administer it. A few people had reservations at first about using an injectable antidote but then admitted they would do it if they had to - to save a life - and were glad to know what to do. Overdose happens here at VANDU from time to time and when they do we have capable peer staff to call 911, administer naloxone and conduct CPR if necessary. First responders are quick to come to the scene; however, sometimes it might take ten minutes or more, and especially in those instances, naloxone saves the day.” – Marion Allaart, Executive Director, VANDU

We take this opportunity to thank all our partners, collaborators, funders and researchers for their support and assistance in making this program successful, and look forward to working together to improve access to naloxone for all British Columbians.

If you are interested in setting up the THN program in your community, review the materials here and the contact us.