Terms like ‘fentanyl’, ‘opioid crisis’, ‘Supervised Injection Site’, and ‘Naloxone kits’, have become prevalent in the news across Niagara. With ongoing efforts throughout the region to provide public education on drug use from a harm reduction model, in collaboration with Positive Living Niagara and OPIRG Brock, four Public Health students are bringing this conversation to Brock.
Project organizers, Kevin Nguyen, Ramar Smith, Stephanie Thevarajah, and Alex White, with the support of Professor Antony Chum and course assistant Hawa Conde, have been planning the first public Opioid Overdose Training taking place on campus. Thevarajah shared that, while learning about harm reduction the previous year, “never heard of any kind of workshop that’s like on-campus.”
Chum wanted to put students in direct contact with ongoing initiatives, “our students work with community partners to address significant community needs, and in this case, there is a real need based on the opioids crisis in the Niagara Region.”
The group spoke to the importance of public education around opioids for students at Brock, where social media and social cultures that “romanticize opioids or make it seem like it’s cool, percocets, xanax… the new wave of drugs among students.” Nguyen, pointed to how opioid overdose education acts as a prevention tool for students, providing them tools to support someone going through an overdose.
White spoke about the necessity of education around fentanyl and Naloxone, “They hear people are dying, people are overdosing, but people don’t really understand what is fentanyl.” The event is branded ‘You Can Save a Life’, to shed light on the positive impact of being trained in Naloxone as temporary solution to an overdose on fentanyl.
Challenging stigma around drug use and addiction will also be a core theme to event. Thevarajah emphasized that “instead of blaming them, we should be helping them and understanding that.” The entire group highlighted the positive long term impact when people are able to access clean tools, and given resources and options, rather than being shamed. With a background of working in various public health sectors, Chum spoke to the importance of harm reduction as “not just about drug use – we want to create an environment where people’s lives are systematically improved.”
The public Opioid Overdose Training is taking place Thursday August, 2, at 12:30pm. This one-hour long session will be held in the Academic South building, room 215, and be facilitated by a StreetWorks Outreach Worker from Positive Living Niagara.
The group has been working with different sectors on campus to ensure a long-term strategy to continue providing trainings on campus. Smith outlined how campus bodies can work with Positive Living Niagara and OPIRG Brock, “advocating it as a broader issue across campus. And maybe getting more events and other things around the stigma of substance use.”