News / Ottawa

Ottawa Public Health moving to targeted measures on opioids

Naloxone spreading to more groups.

Popular bars in Ottawa are making sure that their staff are trained how to use naloxone kits.

Kieran Delamont / Metro

Popular bars in Ottawa are making sure that their staff are trained how to use naloxone kits.

With the opioid crisis continuing to worsen across the province, Ottawa Public Health is taking a more targeted approach to the way it gets its message out about harm reduction. 

One target is bars, with Ottawa Public Health having trained staff from 17 restaurants, encompassing 95 staff, on how to spot the signs of an overdose and administer naloxone. 

Pub 101, a popular bar in the Byward Market, are one of the bars where training has taken place. Staff there say that almost all of them, especially those who tend to work nights, have been trained.

“We’re pretty aware of what’s going on,” said one bartender who asked not to be identified. She said that staff are generally pretty conscious of the potential for drug use in the bar, and that they know the signs of what to look for. 

It’s part of a broader trend of moving beyond the standard messaging—carry naloxone, and don’t use alone—and adapting it to different settings. 

Another OPH initiative is targeting their messaging to certain groups. “The main thing for us is to target any organization where there might be a little more risk of an overdose,” said Jackie Kay-LePors, a public health nurse with OPH. “Because of the fact that in Ottawa we now have fentanyl in our illicit drug stream, so someone who’s taking coke or whatever, they may fall into an opioid overdose.

“Bars are an excellent target in that regard.”

Other messaging is more specialized and unique, targeting specific subsets of recreational drug users. OPH has produced a postcard aimed at the LGBTQ party and play, or “chemsex”—the use of party drugs to enhance sex—community, repackaging much of the same points and applying it to a more specific group. 

OPH began that campaign in the summer, launching during Pride Week.

“We do use segmentation for communication. So, for with respect to overdose, we have our general population level messaging, which is more generic,” said Kay-LePors. Based on what groups are emerging from the epidemiology as being higher risk—for example, we have a new website called the link which is for the youth. It’s the same message, but it’s packaged differently.”

That, she says, helps public health officials to go further in the fight against overdoses. “In our communication, as we go forward, targeted messaging will be really important,” said Kay-LePors. “It’s all about co-operating to make a message that is meaningful to that group.”

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