With overdose deaths continuing at an alarming rate, being prepared for how to deal with one – much like readying for a fire or earthquake – takes practise, says Sources’ George Passmore.
“We want to be ready,” Passmore told Peace Arch News, of why an overdose drill was held last week at Sources’ Maple Street office.
Passmore, who is manager of Sources’ counselling and substance use services, said the Aug. 30 drill – in which staff reviewed what should happen, then practised on a fellow staffer who simulated experiencing the medical emergency – was the first of its kind for the White Rock site.
Planned as part of efforts marking International Overdose Awareness Day last Friday, everything went as it should, Passmore said by email shortly after the drill.
“It went extremely well,” he said, noting the exercise will be repeated in the future – minus the advance warning to staff.
Passmore said prior to the drill that he hoped it would encourage anyone who doesn’t have such training to get it.
Knowing what to do can save a life even in situations where naloxone – used to reverse opioid overdoses – isn’t available, he noted.
“You can save a life by knowing just how to recognize the signs, knowing to call 911 and giving rescue breaths,” Passmore said.
“Many people, they lose oxygen to the brain. So, even if you don’t have naloxone – which kicks out the opioid molecule from the receptor and saves the person’s life – even if you don’t have that, you can save someone from dying.”
Passmore said that, in addition to inspiring the drill, International Overdose Awareness Day was a good opportunity to raise awareness “that overdose remains a number-one cause of preventable death.”
“Just to remind people about the issue.”
That reality was reflected – in part, at least – at a vigil held last Friday evening in South Surrey, where approximately 50 people gathered to remember those lost to overdoses.
Organizers included South Surrey parents Cindy Liefke and Cathy Clements, whose adult children died of fentanyl overdoses earlier this year.
The parents shared their stories with PAN in June, hoping the awareness might help save other families from similar heartache.
Liefke’s daughter, Cheyenne, died in February. Clements’ son, Brodie, died in April.
Photos of the pair, along with that of a third young man, were displayed on a table at the vigil.
Passmore said signs the awareness is building include that in recent weeks, two people have come to Sources to obtain naloxone kits. One person “asked for a kit because he’d used his kit to save a life the night before.”
The other wanted one “because they came across somebody and didn’t have one and wanted to be better-prepared.”
Passmore said despite the fact that overdose deaths this year have so far averaged 17 per month – and the majority continue to happen in private residences – that awareness is worth highlighting.
“Here’s the thing that’s not being recognized: the awareness is making a difference,” he said.
“The number of reversals that have happened in the last year have been astounding. This epidemic would be much more incredible if we didn’t have the kind of responses that people are giving, especially places like the Whalley strip, where there is actual community and people are looking out for one another.”