Pubdate: Fri, 02 Jun 2017
Source: Victoria Times-Colonist (CN BC)
Copyright: 2017 Times Colonist
Author: Sarah Petrescu
Page: A1


'The new reality': Fentanyl test strips and naloxone kits are part of
the mix

Vancouver Island music festivals are stepping up harm-reduction
measures with fentanyl test strips, more naloxone kits and outreach in
light of B.C.'s drug overdose crisis.

"If you're a festival organizer, it's imperative to have this on your
radar. This is the new reality," said Emmalee Brunt, communications
manager for the Tall Tree Music Festival.

The festival takes place in Port Renfrew from June 23 to 26 and is
expected to draw about 3,000 people.

Tall Tree, in its eighth year, has always included harm reduction in
safety plans, but is making an extra effort this year to prevent and
respond to overdoses. That includes providing kits to test for the
presence of the deadly drug fentanyl, naloxone kits to treat
overdoses, and training for staff, volunteers and security, as well as
forensic kits for surrendered drugs to be passed on to the RCMP.

"The big piece of this is that everything is confidential," said
Kaitlyn Nohr, a mental-health and addictions worker who provides harm
reduction for Tall Tree and festivals at Laketown Ranch in the
Cowichan Valley.

"If something tests positive for fentanyl, we will post a notice to
patrons and use word of mouth to let people know," she said, adding a
big focus is educating people about the signs of overdose so they can
get help.

Festival goers will be provided with pamphlets about the symptoms of
overdoses, she said. There will be a field hospital and harm-reduction
tent at the Tall Tree site.

While Nohr said she has never seen an overdose at a festival she's
worked at, she wants to be prepared.

Last year, two people overdosed at the Pemberton Music Festival but
did not die. There have been several suspected overdose deaths at
festivals in recent years, including a man at Pemberton and woman at
Boonstock in Penticton in 2014, which prompted overdose-response plans.

In 2013, a 23-year-old Sidney man died from an overdose at the
Shambhala music festival in Salmo.

"We're very aware of the dangers in what's being circulated out there
right now, especially fentanyl," said Avigdor Schulman, artistic
director for Atmosphere Gathering in Cumberland, set for Aug. 18 to
20. Schulman has co-ordinated a festival at the location for 12 years,
as well as other local music events.

He said last year, they introduced naloxone kits, and this year, they
will increase harm-reduction resources and education.

"We have to be as prepared as possible. … We've had overdoses, but
luckily no one has [died]."

According to a coroner's report this week, 488 people died of
overdoses in B.C. in the first four months of 2017, nearly double the
number from the same period last year, when a public health emergency
was declared. The number includes 37 deaths in Victoria.

The top illicit drugs associated with the deaths included cocaine,
fentanyl, heroin and methamphetamine.

Last week, two teenage girls in New Westminster overdosed on what they
thought was MDMA, and one died.

The Victoria pharmacy STS Pain, which offers free drug testing,
confirmed on social media that fentanyl was present in several street
drugs over the past six weeks, including MDMA. Other drugs where it
was found included crystal meth, cocaine, MDA, heroin, ecstasy,
ketamine and LSD.

Health Canada has sent a letter to Island Health warning that a drug
sample sent in for testing by Victoria police contained a mix of
fentanyl, synthetic marijuana, heroin and caffeine. Victoria police
said the drug was being sold as heroin.

Island Health spokeswoman Meribeth Burton said the Health Canada
letter underscores that there are no safe illicit drugs. All street
drugs can be tainted.

Burton said it's important to never take drugs alone, to test drugs in
small amounts and to make sure a naloxone kit is available before
using drugs.

Katrina Jensen, executive director at AIDS Vancouver Island, said
demand for harm reduction training, including for festivals, has
increased in recent months.

For example, a community naloxone training night at Logan's Pub drew
125 people. "Many people came because someone they know died and they
want to be able to do something about it. They want to be able to
respond to overdoses at places they are, like festivals and pubs."

Jensen said AIDS Vancouver Island pitched an overdose-prevention
project to Island Health targeting youth and festivals, but couldn't
get it approved for additional funding.

"What we're doing is not enough. … We need people on the ground
raising awareness," she said, adding the political situation in B.C.
is a major worry.

"It might be months before we get a government or a budget and we need
to be acting on this now."
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