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Victoria carpenters hope to save lives by carrying naloxone kits

Carpenters in Victoria are the first participants in an initiative that seeks to reduce the disproportionately high number of drug overdose deaths in the construction industry in British Columbia.

The B.C. Construction Industry Rehab Plan (BCCIRP) is providing naloxone kits to members of the Victoria branch of the Carpenters’ Regional Council B.C. and Yukon. Naloxone reverses the effects of opioid overdoses while they’re happening.

The BCCIRP initiative is called A Kit in Every Hand.

Mike Motiuk, a Local 1598 union representative with the Carpenters’ Regional Council, is happy he and his Victoria colleagues were chosen to pilot the program. He says the seven-year toxic drug crisis in B.C. has hit members of the union hard. 

“I know it has affected about 15 of our members,” Motiuk said on CBC’s On The Island. Two of those people, he added, were personal friends and co-workers.

On The Island7:03Victoria carpenters’ union offers naloxone kits to construction workers as toxic drug crisis persists

Gregor Craigie spoke with Mike Motiuk, a union representative with the Carpenters’ Regional Council.

Motiuk says one of the reasons construction workers are impacted disproportionately by opioids is because they deal with a lot of pain due to the physical nature of their jobs.

“Opioids themselves are a pain reliever — that’s how they’re designed, or that’s what they do,” he said. “But using unregulated opioids can be incredibly dangerous. So by offering these emergency kits, we can save lives. We can then address the problems with the people that are using [opioids], and we can start normalizing this conversation to start getting real solutions for how we can tackle this all together.”

A man in a black cap and yellow high visibility vest sits behind a counter with naloxone kits on it and shows the contents of one of the kits.
Mike Motiuk displays the contents of a naloxone kit. (Travis Tambone/Submitted)

Construction workers account for 1 in 5 opioid deaths: executive director 

Vicky Waldron, executive director with the BCCIRP — the organization behind A Kit in Every Hand — says roughly 20 per cent of people who have died from opioid overdoses in B.C. in the past seven years have been construction workers. Waldron bases that figure on statistics from the B.C. Coroners Service.

Since B.C. declared a public health emergency on April 14, 2016, due to increasing overdoses, more than 11,000 British Columbians have lost their lives to illicit toxic drugs. These drugs include fentanyl, a powerful opioid which commonly shows up in the street supply. Fentanyl has no smell or taste, and just a few grains of it can be lethal.

Prescription opioids have also contributed to the drug crisis, according to a federal government fact sheet. 

‘I hope others follow our lead’

A statement issued by the Carpenters’ Regional Council says the Victoria branch was chosen to pilot A Kit in Every Hand because of the desire shown by those union members to make a difference.

“There’s a lot of stigma around this,” said union representative Matt Carlow, who was instrumental in getting the program up and running in Victoria. “But people are dying alone in their homes. Naloxone saves lives, and this union looks out for its members. This is a real way we can stop the deaths. I hope others follow our lead.”

Kits are easy to use

Since March 8, Motiuk says the Victoria office has distributed 15 to 20 naloxone kits and, with help from the BCCIRP,  has been providing members with free training, which takes about 10 minutes.

“The kits themselves are very simple to use,” Motiuk said. 

“We educate [our members]. We give them the training and put a kit into their hand … so that every member of ours has the potential to save a life.”

victoria carpenters hope to save lives by carrying naloxone kits 1

How to effectively administer naloxone to someone who may be experiencing an overdose event

9 days ago

Duration 4:55

In B.C., naloxone kits are widely distributed in an effort to save people from a toxic drug overdose. Brian Twaites, a paramedic public information officer with B.C. Emergency Health Services, showed Dan Burritt how to effectively administer naloxone to a patient.

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