by Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer
Content warning: mentions of drug use and overdose
The Story Behind NaloxHome
During her commute from Coquitlam to Port Moody, Chloe Goodison witnessed a teenager collapse on the SkyTrain. Bystanders were unaware of symptoms of an opioid overdose and mistook the symptoms for other illnesses. After Goodison contacted first responders, they administered Naloxone.
This early experience as a secondary school student encouraged Goodison to educate herself on BC’s opioid overdose crisis. The BC Coroners Service estimates 852 overdose deaths from January to May 2021 and 159 deaths in June 2021 alone. In an interview with The Peak, Goodison described her education initiative and the importance of a harm reduction approach.
Naloxone, which is available as a nasal spray or injection, is administered to restore breathing to someone who has overdosed and may be used for all ages. Some symptoms of overdose can include “severe chest pain, seizures, severe headaches, difficulty breathing, delirium, extreme agitation, or anxiety.” This life-saving drug has proven effective when administered through a take-home kit, as reflected by the increasing rates of reversed overdoses through Naloxone. These take-home kits include instructions for use, the medicine, syringes and needles, a nasal adapter for the syringes, and a separate nasal spray device.
Goodison’s experience witnessing an overdose inspired her to start promoting overdose awareness through her work with the TriCities Overdose Community Action Team (TCCAT). She and her team at NaloxHome designed a comprehensive overdose awareness program to teach secondary school students to recognize an overdose, how to get Naloxone, and how to administer it.
During her first year at SFU, Goodison won the 2020–2021 SFU Student-Community Engagement Competition for her work with Naloxon and used the prize money to implement an overdose awareness campaign and workshops.
In addition to overdose awareness, youth educators in NaloxHome’s presentations also discuss the Good Samaritan Drug Overdose Act. If a person reports or experiences an overdose and seeks help from emergency responders, this protects them from being charged with drug-related offences.
During the pandemic, NaloxHome expanded their programming by hosting free, virtual workshops available to anyone in the community.
Goodison said students’ overall feedback has been positive. Many students have been eager to apply the lessons they learned from the workshops by getting their own Naloxone kits.
“If we can catch them at an early phase and catch them while they’re at school, they can enter university and their adult lives with so much more education than [ . . . ] if they haven’t received that training,” she explained.
In Spring 2021, Goodison began recruiting volunteer youth educators to support her outreach efforts and to host presentations. To promote accessibility, she has kept the eligibility criteria to become a youth educator flexible. NaloxHome’s youth educators come from a variety of backgrounds and fields, but the main criteria required of them is to live in the Tri-Cities and be between 18–25 years old. As long as there are vacancies available, Goodison said she is committed to keeping this opportunity accessible to more applicants.
“If somebody wants to help on this team, there shouldn’t be anything stopping them. This is a crisis, and I think the more hands-on deck we have, the better.”
Reflecting on the start of NaloxHome, she said, “I think a lot of people do like the idea of supporting a youth-led thing, because youth are the future, and youth are tokenized in that way because we’re young, and adults want to learn from us.”
Anti-stigma and Harm Reduction
Overdose awareness rooted in compassion can help make it less stigmatizing, said Goodison. She supports overdose awareness education at a young age as avoiding discussions on drug use contributes to the stigma.
Harm reduction — the use of public policies to lessen the negative social or physical consequences associated with either legal or illegal human behaviours — is also an important component of NaloxHome’s approach to overdose awareness.
“If you could provide someone the connections and resources to stay alive and feel like a part of a community [ . . . ] then there’s a much better chance of them not only getting their life saved but changed and put on a track where they, they matter,” she explained.
Supporters can follow NaloxHome’s initiatives by following their Facebook, Instagram, Linkedin, and Twitter, @naloxhome. NaloxHome is also accepting requests for presentations through their website. To pick up your own free Naloxone kit, use the site finder on towardtheheart.com. To subscribe to overdose alerts in your area, sign up via Fraser Health’s website.