Bolstering awareness is the key reason behind Overdose Awareness Day, which is observed on Aug. 31st.
Of course, it’s a message that is essential for people to keep in mind all year long, but a special event also marking the day was held at the Stettler FCSS.
Highlights of the day included a lunch, a naloxone training session with staff from Red Deer-based Turning Point and a candle lighting as well.
“What was also wonderful about our presentation on Monday was that we gave out 42 naloxone kits to community members, business owners – people at large,” said Shelly Walker, executive director of the Stettler FCSS. “That was a good thing.”
Close to 50 people attended Monday’s event which included representation from the RCMP and the ambulance service as well.
“Some organizations have also since contacted us to say their staff couldn’t be at the event, so could our staff come in and do the training at another point.”
Walker said small communities are not immune from the issues related to overdose and drug and alcohol abuse, as she pointed out that in Stettler and the County, there are about six overdose deaths per year.
“I think that people would also be shocked to know that the majority of our clients are between the ages of 36 and 45 – people tend to think they would be younger. But we even have clients who are 55-plus. The male population is also definitely higher, too.”
To that end, Turning Point has been responding to the health needs of communities using a harm reduction approach.
According to their web site, “Simply put, harm reduction refers to policies, programs and practices that aim primarily to reduce the adverse health, social and economic consequences of risk taking behaviors such as drug use.”
Turning Point has two programs designed to prevent overdose including the Overdose Prevention Support and Education Program.
This focuses on overdose prevention and response, “By providing education and support to people who use opioids and other drugs. The program also includes Naloxone education and distribution as well as post reversal debriefing.
“The training provided includes current drug trends, overdose prevention, identification of an overdose, overdose response including naloxone and post naloxone care.”
Andrea Lee, community engagement coordinator at Stettler FCSS, said the training is critical and she also emphasized that drug abuse can affect virtually anyone’s life.
“It’s not just street drug users – this can happen to anyone.”
She explained how a person could be in an accident and be prescribed medication for their recovery that they could possibly later become addicted to.
Walker agreed, pointing out that some people recovering from surgery or who become seriously injured in some way can become addicted by the end of their course of treatment. She added that it’s a misconception to think that it’s only ‘street’ drugs or illegal drugs that can lead to addiction issues.
“It can be a whole wide scope of things that have nothing to do with street drugs,” she said.
“It’s a terrible, terrible life for them,” she added of those struggling with addiction. “It’s a grind every day and all day because the first thing they are doing when they get up in the morning is to gauge how sick they are, and what do they have to do today to meet the needs of their addiction?
“Then, the next thing they may have to worry about is where they are going to eat; where they are going to sleep – what the progression of that day will be. And this is from the moment that they wake up to the moment they go to sleep, and then it starts all over again the next day.
”It’s such a constant cycle.”
She pointed out that the public can help in generally by first of all trying not to be immediately judgmental.
“We don’t know what put them there,” she said of those caught in addiction. “We have no idea, and there isn’t going to be any recovery or healing if they are ostracized or pushed out.
“Part of our mission here is to offer a safe, non-judgmental environment where we can try to build relationships because that’s where you start to reach out. They they open up, and that’s where opportunities for treatment and those types of things come from – when they can come to you and be honest and trusting.
“We have to be kinder in general.”
Lee also pointed out how some people find themselves dealing with a situation they can’t cope with, so they attempt to self-medicate in some way – through alcohol or drugs for example – to help numb the pain.
Also, she said that the use of drugs and alcohol can of course snowball over time too, as the same level or type of drug used at one point doesn’t achieve the same effect later on – so people either increase their consumption of it or add other drugs to what can become a potentially lethal mix.
“I was just talking with a client the other day, asking what their triggers were. He said his biggest trigger was waking up in the morning and taking his first breath. That’s where it starts – and that’s the reality for a lot of people,” she explained.
For more information on how FCSS can help, visit www.stettlerfcss.com.