GBC First-aid staff to be trained to administer naloxone

Staff to get training but the college can’t get kits from province

First aid staff at George Brown College (GBC) do not have naloxone on hand to deal with overdoses but will be trained on how to use it by Toronto Public Health (TPH) this fall.

Catherine Drum, the interim manager of safety and workplace health at the college, told The Dialog that first aid staff will be trained by the end of October and that the college’s public safety and security and student services departments are also arranging to be trained.

However, Drum said that the college can’t get naloxone kits and that they are only being distributed to agencies doing harm-reduction work with drug users.

A spokesperson from the Ontario Ministry of Health and Long-Term care said that the college would have to talk with the Ministry if they wanted to get naloxone kits but there isn’t enough to give to every organization. They suggested that GBC staff can go to any local pharmacy and get a single kit.

Mark Nesbitt, vice-president of corporate services at GBC, said that the college doesn’t have huge problems with drugs on campus.

He said the college’s security is interested in drug-related activity, but from a community safety standpoint. In 2016, there were 25 drug-related issues at all campuses in total. For 2017 there were 10 incidents as of August.

“Our security forces do not carry naloxone kits. If it became a problem here (GBC), then maybe we would need to revisit (the policy),” said Nesbitt who clarified that as a security force and not police, the staff’s job isn’t to be interveners upholding laws, but to keep people safe.

Tiffany White, director of education of the Student Association (SA) and also a nursing student, disagrees.

“You want to make sure that you have the equipment. Even you don’t use it, at least you have it,” said White.

If someone overdoses on campus, Nesbitt said that the procedure is to call 911.

White said sometimes people who are experiencing an overdose can’t wait for an ambulance.

The Ryerson Students’ Union is planning to train and also equip all of their staff from the equity service centre with naloxone kits.

Although White thinks that ideally all staff in the SA, especially the event squad, SafeWalk and the front desk staff, should be trained and have naloxone kits ready to use, liability is a barrier.

“You don’t want to have the risk. If anything goes wrong with that medication, you’re liable,” White said.

White said that members of the SA have had conversations with the first aid office about what is expected from the college and from the SA.

Nesbitt is also concerned about the problems that could happen if naloxone is misused.

“Diagnosing what’s going on before you start administering drugs, requires knowing if it’s a heart issue versus a drug issue,” he said. “It’s an important difference.”

The overdose crisis has been a problem in many provinces of Canada. British Columbia (BC) and Alberta have the highest rates in the country, with over 10 per 100,000 population having an opioid-related death in each province, according to a Health Canada report.

The health centre at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver has been distributing naloxone kits since March 2016 and the University of Alberta in Edmonton started distributing kits in the fall of 2016.

Public Health Ontario estimates there have been 7,694 opioid-related deaths in total in the province between 2003 and 2016.

TPH’s harm reduction program has taken steps to decrease the number of overdose deaths in the city. On Aug. 21, TPH opened their first supervised injection site at 277 Victoria St.

TPH also launched the Take Home Naloxone program which provides free kits and training for people who use drugs as well as friends and family members.

In September, the Toronto Public Library announced that they are training and equipping their staff with naloxone kits.

Staff at the Universities of Calgary; Manitoba; Saskatchewan; Cape Breton in Nova Scotia and King’s College in Halifax; have been trained and carry naloxone kits to use if necessary.

Files from Steve Cornwell

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GBC First-aid staff to be trained to administer naloxone