Blue Line

Akisqnuk First Nation Hosts Harm Reduction Workshop

May 31, 2022  By Chadd Cawson, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Akisqnuk First Nation, B.C. – Akisqnuk First Nation hosted a Harm Reduction workshop through First Nations Health Authority (FNHA) on May 27 from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

The workshop was for all their members, held at Akisqnuk First Nation Band Hall adjacent to the Columbia River. Harm reduction looks at different policies, programs and practices that will reduce risk and harm that are associated when using psychoactive substances such as opioids.

The Harm Reduction workshop was facilitated by Indigenous Harm Reduction Educator Tonya Robitaille. Robitaille works with all the Interior Nations through FNHA and facilitated these workshops upon invitation to any community. A huge component of this workshop is Naloxone training, where participants are taught how to safely administer intramuscular injections and the nasal spray of Naloxone.

Over the last two years the pandemic may have stolen all the spotlight, but the seriousness and the emergency of the toxic opioid epidemic has only worsened, since COVID insisted on even more isolation. There was a 119 per cent increase in toxic drug deaths from 2019 to 2020 when the pandemic began. In British Columbia, 254 First Nations people lost their lives at the hands of toxic drugs compared to the 116 the year prior. FNHA studies show that First Nations people died at 5.3 times the rate of other B.C. residents in 2020. This has an impact even more so on First nations women as they have died at 9.9 times the rate of other female B.C. residents. The worldwide opioid epidemic has had a devastating impact on all walks of life, particularly First Nations and it has had a blind eye turned to it for too long.

Last year the FNHA distributed 695 nasal naloxone kits to 11 different First Nation communities and organizations in the Interior, as well as 497 doses of nasal naloxone to individuals through community pharmacies. Each kit contains two doses. “Harm reduction keeps people alive. It gives people dignity and a sense of belonging and that they’re still valued members of our communities,” says Robitaille. “It helps people feel that they are loved and cared for no matter what their choices are in life, and that’s really important.”

– The Columbia Valley Pioneer

Print this page


Stories continue below