The Lower Mainland Purpose Society hopes to train hundreds of people on the use of naloxone — and perhaps set a world record at the same time.
On Aug. 31 — International Overdose Awareness Day — the New West-based society will be holding its biggest-ever free naloxone training event, in an effort to memorialize all of the folks who have succumbed to toxic drugs.
“We need to mark International Overdose Awareness Day with something that's poignant, something that is strong and big and stands out,” said Kristina Selby-Brown, the society’s harm reduction coordinator. “And so, the world's largest naloxone training event came to mind.”
Purpose has contacted the Guinness World Records about the possibility of having the event recognized as a world record. Whether or not that occurs, its ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the vital role naloxone plays in the reversal of an opioid overdose – and to train people on the use of naloxone so lives can be saved.
“The point is to do the largest naloxone training event to as many people trained as we possibly can,” said Selby-Brown.
All community members are invited to attend and to spread the word about the Thursday (Aug. 31) training event at Moody Park.
Selby-Brown encourages folks to register online, so there’s an official record of the number of people taking the training. After registering and checking in (check-in begins at 8:30 a.m.) at the event, the training will run from 9:30 to 10:45 a.m., during which time folks will learn how to administer naloxone and will pick up some “pro tips” included in the Purpose Society’s naloxone training manual – many gleaned from its staff’s firsthand experiences in administering naloxone.
After the training is completed, there will be a time to enjoy some music and refreshments and to chat.
“Let's normalize what has happened, because it's happening everywhere. It's not just British Columbia, with these death rates and the toxic drug supply,” said Selby-Brown. “So if people are dying at an alarming rate, many people should be trained. That's why we're doing this.”
According to the BC Coroners Service, unregulated drug toxicity is the leading cause of death in British Columbia for persons aged 10 to 59, accounting for more deaths than homicides, suicides, accidents and natural disease combined. It reports that at least 2,272 British Columbians lost their lives to toxic drugs in 2022.
While it’s especially important for folks who know or are around people of uses substances of any kind to be trained, Selby-Brown said everyone should be trained on the use of naloxone. She invites people to attend the event to get trained and to have an open dialogue about harm reduction.
“Here's who should come: anybody who understands, doesn't understand; has somebody in their life, doesn't have anybody in their life who uses drugs,” she said. “Come and get trained because we are in a crisis.”
The possibility of community members coming across somebody overdosed is no longer an anomaly, Selby-Brown said.
“If the world was suffering from an insulin crisis — let's say everybody was running around dropping dead of blood sugar, and the cure for that is an insulin shot — everybody should be trained in that as well. If five people a day were dying of that, or seven people a day were dying of that all, over the place, we should probably all be trained in that,” she said. “This overdose crisis — people are dying.”
For Selby-Brown, the overdose crisis is personal. Her brother and her father died of a toxic drug supply within two weeks – and the grief from those losses that led the former real estate agent to pursue a career in harm reduction.
Selby-Brown, who has personally administered naloxone to “hundreds” of people, has a pocket mask, naloxone kit and oximeter (to test people's oxygen levels) in her purse at all times.
“I'm a harm reductionist, so I believe in being prepared,” she said. “I am always prepared.”
In 2022, the Purpose Society trained 1,000 people in-person on the use of naloxone at community sessions, government offices, schools, businesses and other venues. On top of that, an unknown number of people were trained online, after accessing a QR code that directs them to the society’s full naloxone training manual and to online naloxone training — a full training session and an “emergency response now” session in which Selby-Brown’s voice calmly guides people through the administration of naloxone.
The upcoming training session will also discuss the importance of protecting one’s mental health after administering naloxone – something that’s included in the society’s training manual.
“We are so big on the mental health aspect of it. Because it's hard; it’s hard to do. It's a scary moment, right? And even when we're so well trained and so well versed, it can be. It can be sad. It's upsetting,” she said. “There's a lot of emotions that come with that.”
But it’s important, Selby-Brown said.
“It’s necessary,” she said. “When you're a humanitarian, you love people and you don't want people to die. And so it is a responsibility to be trained and to be trained properly, and to remove biases and respond the best way you can.”