Community Leaders | Empowering Stories for International Overdose Awareness Day | Peer Education in Western Australia – Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

In News by AIVL

There are too many brilliant people to count, all of whom contributed to the Peer Based Harm Reduction Western Australia (PBHRWA) Take Home Naloxone Program over the years. They all put their hearts and souls into building a Program that has been providing Take Home Naloxone for more than a decade and is still evolving today. In 2010 the Overdose Prevention and Management (OPAM) peer-education project was founded and, back in January 2013, a Peer Naloxone Pilot Program (based around monthly three-hour community training sessions) began prescribing naloxone to those at risk of experiencing or witnessing opioid overdose.

These days, you can walk into PBHRWA any time they are open and leave with free Naloxone, and the confidence to use it, in as little as five to ten minutes. The introduction of this Naloxone Brief Education model in late 2018 made Take Home Naloxone more accessible. With the wind-up of the OPAM project in June this year and the launch of their new Naloxone Peer Education Project in July, PBHRWA are hoping to take that accessibility to the next level by recruiting and training Peer Educators in the Perth Metro area to provide Naloxone Brief Education sessions to people in their communities.

Peta Gava, a Peer Worker and the Project Officer for the new Program, sees an “army of people in our community who have expertise they can share at any place and time with people who may not be accessing NSPs, pharmacies, or any service at all for that matter. Take Home Naloxone is not new to our consumer community. Over the last decade, so many people have contributed to building our Naloxone Program into what it is today. It is a part of the heritage of this organisation that I am very proud of, but the work isn’t finished. We can do more.”

The Peer Educators trained by PBHRWA will act as “distribution hubs in suburbs where there is a need but there aren’t services that people can just walk into. Peer Educators will reach people we can’t”. They and the people in the community who will be trained by them, will be essential in saving many more lives and preventing non-fatal overdose-related harm (such as acquired brain injury).

At PBHRWA, between 90 and 120 Naloxone devices are already distributed every month. For some, it is the first time they have received Take Home Naloxone. More often, people come to replenish their previous supply which they report was used to save a life in the community.

Peta feels lucky to be part of a community like ours. For her, Peer Education is a way to fight back against stigma, because it “empowers people to understand that their experience has value, and that changes the way we see ourselves.” As she says,

“Our community is so resilient. If there is one thing we’ve learned from being marginalised at every turn for all these years, it’s how to look out for each other.”