Over the past year, the deadly drug fentanyl has been the root cause of many fatal opioid drug overdoses, wreaking havoc over metropolitan cities across the country.

In Surrey, RCMP found a new strain of fentanyl during a December raid. According to Health Canada, that strain of fentanyl had not yet been seen in that jurisdiction.

These lab results are once again prompting us to warn illicit drug users that it doesnt matter where you buy your drugs, or who you get them from. The danger is the same, if youre in the big city or in a

small community. I cannot stress that enough there is no safe haven,” said Assistant Commissioner Jim Gresham, head of the BC RCMPs Investigative Services and Organized Crime in a press release.

The effects of the drug crisis have been fatal in the East Kootenay region. According to a recent BC Coroners Service report, fentanyl was detected in three of 10 overdose deaths in the East Kootenay in 2016.

The only potentially life-saving treatment for an opioid overdose is the use of the drug naloxone, the drug that reverses the effects of an opioid overdose. However, the naloxone kits, which are take-home kit containing three doses of naloxone and syringes to inject them, haven’t been readily available in the Valley.

To Morgan Floesser, a community support worker for the Shuswap Band Health Centre, it seemed that getting a hold of naloxone kits was difficult, so she and Shauna Cameron, health director for bands health centre, stepped forward to get training with the kits available for the Columbia Valley.

Registering with the BC Centre for Disease Control in September 2016, they now train and give out the naloxone kits to businesses and individuals. The Shuswap Band Health Centre’s proactive work with the overdose community has not gone unnoticed, as they have been recognized by B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake for their efforts.

The training is about 45 minutes long; we can only do six people per time. (Those interested) can contact me or Shauna at the Shuswap Band Health Centre. We go over how to recognize an opioid overdose, how to use the kits, said Ms. Floesser.

Using an orange, Horsethief Pub owner Mike Gray demonstrates how a naloxone kit works. Photo by Nikki Fredrikson

Since August, the Shuswap Band Health Centre has held 22 successful trainings, including training the staff at the Horsethief Pub & Eatery in Radium Hot Springs.

From a business point of view at the Horsethief Pub, we recognize that we’re open late, we are the latest business open in town. In the event of an overdose, if someone came running for help, we would be a place where someone could end up. We’d like to have that training available. We certainly discourage drug use at the pub, no one is advocating to have an overdose situation by any means. But if something does happen, we’d like to do the responsible thing and be ready for our community’s needs, said Horsethief Pub owner Mike Gray.

The Horsethief Pub is the first business in the Valley to do the training with the Naloxone kits that isn’t in the health care sector. Mr. Gray told The Pioneer hes not a medical person but felt very comfortable doing the training, which takes 35 to 40 minutes.

I understand the prioritization of things and not dealing with things until they are a problem. Fentanyl seems to be something that is a growing issue and I would hate to wait til we had a death to start dealing with it, said Mr. Gray.

As the fentanyl crisis continues to grow across the country, the need for education and training expands. Fairmont Hot Springs Resort has recognized the need for discussion and education around explicit drug use and has taken steps to educate their staff.

We’ve had several of the people who work for us touched by this crisis. In other words, some of those deaths are within the Fairmont Hot Springs Resort family, so we wanted to do to see what we could do to raise some awareness in the Valley, said Fairmont Hot Springs Resort Human Resources Manager David Sheedy.

On Thursday, February 23rd, Fairmont Hot Springs Resort brought in Jeff Burko, the executive director at PEAK Emergency Response Training, to discuss the dangers of opioids with staff and members of the community. PEAK has been working with Interior Health to bring specific protocol to mountain resorts in an event of overdose.

This particular presentation was around basically information transfer, bringing the word out to what this problem is all about, just an educational piece, Mr. Burko told The Pioneer.

Mr. Burko’s presentation was attended by 30 to 40 people made up of Fairmont Hot Springs Resort staff and members of the public. He went through an opioid overdose overview, including the benefits and risks of opioids.

It wasn’t just staff. There were other people from the community that came, which I felt was excellent. I think the crowd was engaged, I think that they appreciated the information. I think there needs to be more of that, I think the better educated everyone is, the less likely people are going to be adversely affected, said Mr. Burko.

The resort plans to incorporate the information into future orientations for new staff to educate them on the effects of opioids such as fentanyl.

We don’t think we’re going to convince people not to do drugs, but if they’re going to do drugs, we would like them to make an informed and educated choice when they do, said Mr. Seedy.

They will be implementing a protocol for the coming season at the resort, he said, adding they will have the naloxone kits on hand.

What we will probably do at his suggestion is have (a training) along with anyone whos got our Level 1 first aid. Because we do trainings every year, we have a lot of people on site with Level 1 first aid along with a bunch of people who have Level 2, said Mr. Seedy.

According to Dean Nicholson, executive director and substance use counsellor with the East Kootenay Addiction Services Society, the Columbia Valley area has been very proactive in trying to get kits in people’s hands.

Originally, when the program first started, it was only for people who were using the drugs. It now expanded to basically where we want to get kits in people’s hands so family members, anybody who might be potentially at risk, or (anyone) around somebody who’s at risk can come in and ask for the training, said Mr. Nicholson.

The work in the Columbia Valley is only beginning as more individuals and business begin to look for more education and training on opioid overdoses. For anyone interested in receiving training with the naloxone kits, they are encouraged to contact Ms. Floesser at 250-341-3678 ext. 1009 or Ms. Cameron at 250-341-3678 ext. 1015.