Community Leaders | Empowering Stories | A Discussion about Overdose Awareness Day with a Peer Projects Coordinator in South Australia

In News by AIVL

Q: Can you introduce yourself by telling me about the work you do at Hepatitis SA?

I coordinate a team of harm reduction peers who provide Needle and Syringe Programs (NSPs) and other services to people who inject drugs. We currently have peer workers based at 6 locations in metropolitan Adelaide, from the far southern suburbs to the northern suburbs. The wide reach of our project means that if you live in the suburbs you should be able to access clean equipment, safer injecting information, and support and referrals from a peer worker.

Q: Can you describe the overdose related work that is done at Hepatitis SA?

South Australia is one of the 3 states/territories that participated in the Take Home Naloxone (THN) pilot, where anyone could go to a participating pharmacy and get free naloxone. The THN pilot has now been rolled out nationally and moved from a pilot to an ongoing program. Hepatitis SA is not registered as an Authorised Alternative Supplier (AAS) so we are unable to provide Naloxone but we can refer people to local pharmacies that can provide them with free Naloxone (no ID or name required).

Our harm reduction peers always provide a brief intervention when referring someone to a pharmacy for Naloxone. This is a quick interaction that doesn’t take up more than a few minutes of the service user’s time but ensures that they have some information on how to avoid opiate/opioid overdose, recognise the signs of overdose and respond to overdose, including being able to confidently administer Naloxone.
We also provide education on methamphetamine toxicity (overdose) and GHB/GBL overdose. The number of people accessing the peer Clean Needle Programs/NSPs for barrels (syringes) to use GHB/GBL has been increasing over the last couple of years, so our team has ensured that we are on top of current harm reduction strategies in relation to ‘G’ use, including reducing the risk of overdose.

We have produced resources on opiate/opioid overdose – mostly brief, to the point, cards that can fit in a pocket or wallet and have instructions for rescue breathing and administering naloxone. There are also some good peer developed overdose resources (ie from Harm Reduction Victoria and NUAA) that we’ve found useful.

Q: What does International Overdose Awareness Day mean to you?

IOAD for me is about acknowledging those we have lost to overdose (I have lost countless loved ones and friends), acknowledging that overdose can happen to anyone, and raising awareness of overdose. Now that we have free ‘over the counter’/OTC Naloxone in Australia, IOAD is also about promoting Naloxone and encouraging people to have Naloxone on hand as a routine item in a first aid kit. In this sense, IOAD is about having the tools to prevent fatal overdoses.

Q: If you could say one thing to people who don’t understand this issue, what would you say?

Overdose doesn’t discriminate – it can be the cause of devastating loss to families of any background.