The program was established over six years ago to save the lives of people who use drugs by reversing opioid overdoses.
“The milestone of putting 100,000 kits into the hands of people who need them is bittersweet given what it represents,” said Dr. Jane Buxton, the harm reduction lead at the BCCDC.
In 2017, the overdose crisis claimed four lives per day in British Columbia. “It’s an unacceptable number,” said Dr. Buxton. “But sadly, the number would have been even higher without naloxone.”
Anyone at risk of experiencing or witnessing an overdose is eligible for a free, life-saving naloxone kit through the Take Home Naloxone program. From 2012 to 2013, the program’s first year, fewer than 700 kits were distributed. That number skyrocketed to over 60,000 between 2016 and 2017, when BC’s provincial health officer declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency.
Earlier this year, the BCCDC and UBC developed a mathematical model that can estimate the effectiveness of different public-health interventions in preventing opioid overdose deaths. The model determined that between January 1 and October 31, 2016, the expansion of the Take Home Naloxone program prevented 226 deaths in BC, or 26 per cent of all possible opioid overdose-related deaths in that time period.
“That is the silver lining, if there is one,” said Dr. Buxton. “Together, my colleagues and our dedicated partners in health care have prevented hundreds of overdoses—but the crisis continues. There is much more to do. My biggest hope is that fewer kits will be needed, but until that time, we will continue to make sure kits are available to all who need them.”
For the latest program statistics, look at this infographic.
To learn more about the Take Home Naloxone program, including where to get a kit, visit Toward The Heart.