The B.C. and Yukon chapter of St. John Ambulance has received $400,000 from the federal government to revamp its occupational health and safety training to include the use of naloxone and artificial respiration.
Federal Health Minister Ginette Petitpas Taylor was in Kamloops Thursday to make the announcement and participate in training delivered by the life saving organization at Boys and Girls Club in North Kamloops.
The new program will build upon St. John Ambulance’s existing occupational first aid program, standardizing the act of administrating naloxone in emergency first aid training.
“This means that every one of the nearly 40,000 people who take the first aid courses in the province of Yukon and British Columbia every year will learn how to save a life by using naloxone and giving artificial respiration,” Petitpas Taylor told a crowd gathered at the John Todd Centre Thursday.
St. John Ambulance CEO for B.C. and Yukon, Karen MacPherson, told KTW the money will be spent designing and developing the new curriculum for the program, which will have an online component.
MacPherson said the occupational first aid program is mandatory training at many work sites for the construction, mining and manufacturing sectors.
“One of the industries that has been heavily affected by opioids and overdoses is construction,” she said. “Because of that we felt that was the best place for us to go to eliminate the stigma, but also to help build sustainability in the course.”
She said trades workers take a refresher course every three years.
Petitpas Taylor told reporters gathered for the event she feels the training will raise awareness of the importance and need for naloxone training.
“These types of information sessions and training sessions are extremely important,” she said.
She said that given the number of overdose deaths in the country everyone has likely been affected by the opioid crisis in one way or another and encourages all Canadians to receive training.
“At the end of the day having your naloxone kit can save a life,” she said.
In total 11,577 people have lost their lives to an overdose in the last three years in Canada, said Petitpas Taylor, noting 48 people in Kamloops died as a result in 2018 alone.
“As Canada’s health minister there is no issue to me that is more important than this one,” Petitpas Taylor said.
Asked if there is an appetite to decriminalize all illicit drugs as Portugal did, Petitpas Taylor said that’s not something the federal government is considering at this point, and noted the provinces and territories have the responsibility of direct health service delivery.